MBAnalysis Blog: Four Tips as You Consider ROI on an MBA

For many business school candidates, the issue of ROI on your MBA is paramount. After all, why pay a huge amount for a degree that isn’t going to pay off financially?

While I appreciate the question, I find it overly simplistic; particularly as you are about to make a potentially life-altering decision. So, let’s dig down deeper on some things to consider.

Start off by understanding that there are two parts to the question of any ROI. There is the RETURN piece but there is also the INVESTMENT piece. So let’s look at the investment side of the equation to better understand the decision you are about to make.

1. Sticker Price versus Actual Price.

Everyone is intimidated by the thought of paying ~$200,000 for a business degree. Remember the actual dollars paid can be quite different from the published tuition cost. Yes, scholarships are available, and though they won’t admit it, business schools do have money to spend on candidates they want in their programs.

2. How about zero? Is zero too much?

Picking up on this idea that money is out there, I always push my clients to think beyond Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. Look to other schools that could offer them some dollars. When they say, “I will only pay for a top school, otherwise I won’t go.” I respond, “What if this school were free? Would you go then?” At that point, most people start saying, “Yes.” And suddenly a whole world of great, if lesser known, schools opens up to them.

3. So where’s free?

This is where research counts. It is easy to identify your top ten school choices. How about places where you could both be admitted AND get a full ride. For many of you, this may mean an MBA program where, for example, Indian male engineers or Asian women, are not the largest pool of applicants. Guess what? They do exist, though they may be places you have never heard of. And, don’t forget Arizona State University. Though more difficult to get into than practically any other school – with a 14 percent acceptance rate – if you do, it is free for all admitted.

4. Northeastern? Brigham Young?

Never heard of them? Well you should. These are just two of the schools where my international clients received a full-ride. Yes, they are paying $0 for their MBAs from a US program. It is amazing what you can find if you dig.

How about the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX? Only 16 percent international students, when the average percent is closer to 30+. If you have a 730+ GMAT, you are ABOVE the 80% range and will be helping to pull up their averages (and thus rankings). Overall, a beautiful school with a $1.5B endowment in a great city. First year compensation for graduates is an eye-popping $120,000. Your chance of acceptance very high, your chance of a full ride, also high.

While admittedly, Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton may still be your top choices, it may well turn out that schools like Northeastern, Brigham Young, and SMU may offer a better return on investment. After all, you don’t have to go to business school to know that when the initial investment is low (or zero), the return on that investment can be through the roof. Though the roof may end up being in places like Utah or Texas.

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