What is the True Cost of a Harvard MBA?

Julissa Treviño Updated on June 12, 2019

For many, Harvard Business School is the pinnacle of higher education. And it 's a big commitment, too — it takes time, focus and money. 

Tuition for Harvard Business School is $73,440 annually. When you take into account fees, room and board, and living expenses, that number rises to $109,124.

But that doesn't tell the whole story, since the sticker price is not what you'll actually pay. 

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Here are a few ways to help you determine the true cost of a Harvard MBA, and whether it's worth the cost.

Harvard MBA cost

But fewer than 50% of students pay full price 

That's right. Less than half of Harvard Business School students pay the full price for their MBA, according to Poets & Quants, a blog focused on graduate business education. That's good news. 

Among the aid offered by Harvard Business School is the need-based HBS Fellowship that you don't have to repay. You must apply for this fellowship after being admitted to the school.

Here's what you need to know about the fellowship:

  • This fellowship does not cover full tuition.
  • The majority of the fellowship awards are between $30,000 and $50,000. The average one-year award is $37,000.
  • In 2017, HBS budgeted $33 million for need-based fellowships. 
  • 50% of HBS students are eligible for these need-based fellowships.
  • Between 800 and 900 need-based fellowships are funded annually.
Additionally, other fellowships are available for students with specific backgrounds and interests that can help cover the cost of a MBA.

Outside scholarships and grants can lower the cost further

Outside scholarships and grants, which do not have to be repaid, can curb the remaining costs. In fact, HBS recommends that all students look for outside funds to help with the cost of the school. The school lists a number of scholarship opportunities on its website. You can also search through our blog post, 150 Scholarships for Graduate Students.

There's a caveat here: You can apply up to $30,000 in scholarships to HBS tuition and fees without impacting your HBS Fellowship award. But if you receive more than $30,000 in outside scholarships, your HBS Fellowship amount will be reduced. 

You may still have to take out loans

Assuming you're awarded the average fellowship amount of $37,000 and you get another $30,000 in scholarships, you're still on the hook for $42,000 each year to cover the full cost of the program, fees and living expenses.

Most students have to look to student loans to fill the gap. According to HBS, the average MBA student graduates with about $87,000 in student loan debt.

See also: The Nitro Guide to Getting a Private Student Loan

Is a Harvard MBA worth it?

The question of whether a Harvard MBA is worth the money is subjective. First, you have to consider the financial implications. Is the school attainable and affordable in your situation? Are you committed to finding outside funding, or are you OK with taking on nearly $50,000 in student loans? 

There are also other considerations. HBS dean Nitin Nohria told Business Insider in a September article that the program is best for developing general management skills, rather than specializing in a particular field.

"We're looking for people who really enjoy the responsibility of running a company, or want to run a company," Nohria told Business Insider. "If you have a very special interest in a particular thing, other schools may be better suited to you."

(Though, apparently, research shows that generalist MBA grads get better job offers than MBA grads who specialize in a single area.)

You also have to understand the implications of student loan debt. As The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2012, Harvard Business School graduates are sometimes saddled with six-figure debt because they never questioned the value of a MBA. "I assumed all would take care of itself; that I would go to Harvard, get a high-paying job, and everything would be OK," one graduate said. "I was completely naive."

If you do choose to attend Harvard MBA, use our College Cost Calculator, which will help you interpret your financial aid letter and determine the amount of loans you'll need to take out and any out-of-pocket costs.

Published in: How to Pay for College

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño

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