Average MBA Student Debt: How Much Business School Students Borrow
Learn more about the average MBA debt to help you decide whether the degree is right for you and, if so, how to manage your payments.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average MBA debt was $66,300 for the 2015-2016 academic year. What’s more, a 2018 Bloomberg survey found that almost half of the 10,473 graduates surveyed borrowed $100,000 or more for their MBA.
If you’re planning to go to business school, the thought of taking on five or six figures of debt may seem scary. To give you more insight and information on how you can manage your payments, let’s take a look at the average MBA debt at some of the top business schools in the U.S.
Average MBA Debt at Competitive Business Schools
The college you attend can drastically impact how much debt you end up with. Here’s a sampling of the average MBA debt students took on, according to the Department of Education's College Scorecard:
Average MBA Debt
Dartmouth College (Tuck)
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
University of Michigan (Ross)
University of Chicago (Booth)
Duke University (Fuqua)
Northwestern University (Kellogg)
As you can see, the average debt can vary a great deal. Of course, it’s not as simple as picking a program based on how much it costs.
Calculating How Much You Need to Borrow
There are plenty of choices for students who are trying to figure out how to pay for an MBA. Of course, the best option would be money you don’t need to pay back, such as employer assistance programs or fellowships. However, given the potentially high amount you may need to pay for this coveted degree, you’ll most likely need to rely on student loans.
Assuming you graduate with $66,300 in debt (the average MBA debt), you’ll end up paying a total of $90,338.77 over 10 years, or a monthly payment of $752.82, if you had a 6.5% interest rate. If you borrow more, you’ll end up paying more.
MBA Student Loan Repayment Options
While taking on MBA debt can feel scary, you may be able to make up for it by increasing your salary significantly. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council's corporate recruiters survey, the median salary for new hires with an MBA degree in 2020 was $115,000. That’s on par with or higher than the average debt from the top competitive business schools.
Ideally, you want to graduate with as little debt as possible in the first place, so those who are already employed should turn to their HR department. You may be surprised at the kinds of education benefits you’re entitled to — your employer could pay for a good chunk of your degree. Don’t forget to check what the rules are for financial assistance so you’re not caught having to pay back your employer.
There are also fellowships, which are similar to grants, but they’re awarded based on merit. Typically, you may qualify based on your professional accomplishments, GMAT score or undergraduate GPA. Some business schools may award fellowships automatically once you’re admitted, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the business school’s financial aid office beforehand to see whether you need to apply.
Even if you do end up taking out more in loans than you’d hoped, having a sound loan repayment strategy is vital. That way, you can minimize the amount you’ll pay in fees and interest.
Here are some strategies:
- Pay more than the minimum payment: Graduates who make at least six figures may be able to comfortably afford a higher monthly loan payment. Do some calculations to see whether that is feasible for you. Even a little bit extra each month can lower the amount you pay in interest overall and shorten your repayment schedule. Play around with a student loan repayment calculator to see how much you may be able to save by increasing your monthly payments.
- Take advantage of your good credit: Assuming you have worked and built up your credit, you may be able to qualify for competitive interest rates from private lenders. Did you know Juno negotiates the lowest private MBA loan rates on behalf of borrowers?
- Reconsider federal student loans: Graduate students can take out only unsubsidized student loans, so interest will accrue even when you’re enrolled in your MBA. Plus, interest rates are higher for those pursuing graduate degrees, and there is usually an origination fee. Many private lenders don’t charge that fee and may offer better rates, so do some shopping around. That being said, federal loans come with some advantages, such as income-based repayment plans, so think carefully before deciding to forgo them.
- Refinance your student loans: Don’t give up even if you didn’t get a great rate on your MBA loans. You can refinance your loans, so keep an eye on rates to see if you can qualify for a lower one later. Make sure your credit profile is strong and your income is high enough to help you qualify for the lowest rates possible. If you’re refinancing federal student loans, consider whether you’re willing to give up benefits such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. For private MBA loans, there are not many disadvantages to refinancing.
Sometimes, it may not be feasible for you to increase your monthly student loan payment, such as when you’re buying your first home or prioritizing other financial goals. As long as you do what you can to minimize the amount you take out in the first place and look to get the lowest rates possible, you’ll be on your way to being debt-free.
Juno can help by finding the most affordable rates on MBA loans. We negotiate with partner lenders on behalf of borrowers to help each student qualify for the best rates possible given their financial situation.
Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Financial Planning Association, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and Redbook. She’s the host of Beyond The Dollar, where she and her guests have deep and honest conversations about money affects their well-being.
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