The 10 Best MBA Programs for Avoiding Soul-Crushing Debt

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Want to go to business school but can’t face massive debt? Elyssa Kirkham, Expert at Student Loan Hero, has tips for you. 

Want to go to business school but think you can’t afford it? You’re not alone.

More than half (52 percent) of prospective MBA students are worried they won’t be able to afford the costs, and 47 percent are concerned about incurring too much student debt, according to a survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Considering the average cost of an MBA, including lost wages, is $384,200, according to Bloomberg, they have good reason to feel that way. 

But enormous student loans don’t always have to be the price of admission. A Student Loan Hero study of the best business schools for avoiding massive debt analyzed 116 schools across the country. It found 20 programs where tuition costs and MBA debt are low and graduates receive high pay relative to their loans.

Keep reading to see the top 10 schools as well as tips for making any business school affordable.

The 10 most affordable MBA programs

At these 10 schools, getting your MBA doesn’t have to result in a mountain of student loan debt.

1. Lehigh University in Pennsylvania
    ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,350
    ● MBA graduates with debt: 0 percent
    ● Average MBA debt balance: $0
    ● Average starting compensation: $86,667

2. Oklahoma City University 
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $16,230
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 9 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $11,331
   ● Average starting compensation: $101,090

3. University of Texas — Dallas
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,048
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 25 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $7,132
   ● Average starting compensation: $83,000

4. Missouri University of Science and Technology
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $15,402
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 19 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $11,386 
   ● Average starting compensation: $66,667

5. Oklahoma State University (Spears)
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $12,121
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 22 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $18,728
   ● Average starting compensation: $70,700

6. University of Missouri (Trulaske)
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,599
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 20 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $20,495
   ● Average starting compensation: $64,252

7. Florida State University
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $18,693
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 31 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $14,379
   ● Average starting compensation: $67,308

8. West Virginia University
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,450
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 33 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $18,608
   ● Average starting compensation: $58,488

9. Louisiana State University — Baton Rouge (Ourso)
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $17,800
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 27 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $17,900
   ● Average starting compensation: $62,429

10. West Texas A&M
   ● Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,600
   ● MBA graduates with debt: 54 percent
   ● Average MBA debt balance: $18,500
   ● Average starting compensation: $93,625

How to save money on business school

Whether or not your dream business program made the list, there are ways to save on the cost of an MBA. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Find a company with education reimbursement

If you want someone else to foot the bill for your MBA, you might want to consider working for a company that values business school graduates. About 10 percent of MBA students received partial or full employer sponsorship for their degrees, according to a 2016 Financial Times survey.

Consulting firm Deloitte is one such example, offering $10,000 per year in tuition reimbursement to its employees. Other top companies that offer education reimbursement include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Apple.

2. Crush the GMAT

The GMAT exam won’t only determine whether you get into business school; it also could determine your eligibility for scholarships. To get ready for the exam, you can check test prep books out of the library and get test prep materials from mba.com.

And to help cover the cost of the exam itself, considering asking for a GMAT Voucher this holiday season. Your loved ones can contribute $50 or $100 or band together to cover the entire $250 fee.

3. Apply for scholarships

After you nail the GMAT and get accepted into an MBA program, it’s time to think about merit scholarships, sometimes called fellowships.

To increase your chances of becoming a recipient, one admissions officer told U.S. News you should visit campus to foster relationships with the staff. And if you get into multiple programs, another said you can try to leverage the acceptances to receive more money.

You also can seek funding from external sources. You’ll find a plethora of MBA scholarships, with many targeted at women, people of color, and the LGBT community.

Although an MBA can cost a lot, it also can really pay off. Just make sure you carefully consider which school you attend and then follow the steps above to reduce your costs and come out on top.