Executive Education

The Best Bang for Your Buck: Weighing Tuition Against ROI for EMBA Programs

executive mba tuition roi

There is no magic formula that can find the best possible value for an individual’s Executive MBA program needs.

In fact, putting an exact numeric value on prestige may be the most difficult equation of all. Even though variables such as location and alumni network may ultimately be the deciding factor in choosing a program, Ivy Exec has compiled the best program options based solely on tuition weighed against the average percent increase in salary after receiving a degree.

Jet Set to Get Set

The programs with the lowest tuitions but the highest average percent increase in post-graduation salaries were predominantly ones located outside of the US. The University of Warwick in Coventry, England offered far-and-away the best promise of a return on investment to its EMBA students. With tuition of $58,953—less than one-third of the cost of many of the top programs here in the States—Warwick students saw an astonishing average 94-percent increase in salary after graduation. By comparison, no other program in the world surveyed by Ivy Exec exceeded a 62-percent average salary increase after completing the program. There are, however, two considerations that may decrease this program’s value proposition. For one, the University of Warwick is about 100 miles outside of London, adding substantial travel costs to any executive stateside who may be considering the program. Furthermore, the program at the University of Warwick is substantially longer than any other surveyed by Ivy Exec, clocking in at 36-months—while most run between 20 and 24 months total.

A program that can be completed in less than half the time of the University of Warwick’s is that of the National University of Singapore Business School. The NUS Asia Pacific Program runs only 15 months and costs about $70,387. Graduates of the program reported an average 59-percent salary boost after completing their degrees—a number that is comparable to the top ten EMBA programs in the US for a much lower cost. However, if a prospective student is based in the US, the cost of the NUS program includes only tuition and not travel.

The Cass Business School at the City University of London offers a 24-month program with a $62,958 price tag and an average 60-percent post-graduation salary boost. With the exact same percent return on investment as Wharton at one-third of its $181,500 cost, this program makes the occasional trans-Atlantic plane tickets it would require look inexpensive.

If extensive overseas travel is a deal-breaker due to significant work or personal commitments stateside, the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee is a fine option. At $112,400, students at Vanderbilt saw a greater average post-graduation salary boost than students at Wharton. With an average 62-percent increase in salary after graduation, Vanderbilt might be worth the travel from another city in the US for its classes meeting on alternating weekends. 

Alternatives in the Big Apple

There’s no question that New York City is the heart of the business world in the US. Seeking an EMBA in the New York area can be an ideal choice both from the standpoint of achieving prestige and of attaining a top-tier network. But, naturally, like everything else in New York, an EMBA does not come cheap.

For its steep price of $163,940, the Columbia Business School offers a strong value proposition with graduates of the program seeing an average salary increase of 58-percent. The Stern School of Business at New York University comes at an even higher cost of $170,200 for an average post-graduate salary boost of 36-percent.

But prospective EMBA students have other, New York-area options available for a more reasonable price and, perhaps, a stronger return on investment.

The Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in the Bronx comes in at $97,500 while remaining within a subway ride’s distance of Manhattan’s Financial District. With students seeing an average post-graduate salary boost of 52-percent, this program offers a much more compelling value proposition than Columbia Business School when the brand-name prestige of the latter is not taken into account. Rutgers Business School, about 20 minutes from Manhattan, also provides commuter access to the Big Apple while offering a competitive tuition and return on investment. With a price tag of $92,043 and an average post-graduation salary boost of about 49-percent, Rutgers could offer EMBA program participants a much stronger value than the Stern School.

Short and Sweet

Time is money. Consequently, some executives might be looking for the shortest possible program that can offer the greatest return on investment. The bad news, however, is that most programs in the US run between 20 and 24 months with one exception: the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. This program in Durham, North Carolina came in at number nine on Ivy Exec’s overall program rankings. The school’s name comes with prestige and a strong alumni network—however, while brief, the program is expensive and does not offer a strong, average post-graduate salary boost. Running only 15-months at a cost of $166,000, EMBA program participants at Duke saw only a 29-percent average jump in salary after graduating.

For shorter and cheaper programs, the ESADE Business School in Barcelona or the INSEAD Global Executive MBA program in Fontainebleau, France are both strong options. ESADE clocks in at 16 months at a cost of $61,500 for a 32-percent post-graduate salary boost. INSEAD comes in ever shorter at 15 months at a higher cost of $116,512 but with a more impressive average 58-percent return on investment.

Bottom line

Selecting an EMBA program will ultimately come down to more than money: it’s also about enriching one’s education and perspective, building a network of connections that span industries and continents and growing together with a cohort of likeminded, successful executives from around the world. But understanding the best possible value proposition of each program can help narrow down the field—while also demonstrating that the best bang for your buck might not lie with the top ten schools.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.