Executive Education

The Thrifty Executive MBA—Five Programs under $100,000


When shopping for an EMBA program, prospective students interested primarily in the top-tier business schools will be hard pressed to find a course of study that does not cost somewhere in the six-figure range.

Unfortunately, that’s a burden that the students themselves are increasingly expected to carry.

Financial sponsorship from employers has been dwindling over the years. As of 2013, 41.2% of EMBA students were fully self-funded—a number that’s risen every year. Only 24% of students were fully paid for by their employers. There was a glimmer of hope in 2014 when for the first time in five years, the percentage of students fully-funding their EMBA education dipped slightly, according to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), dropping from 41.2% to 39.8% and full employer sponsorship ticked up slightly from 24% to 24.6%–but the EMBAC says it’s too soon to say if this is a trend. By contrast, back in 2007, 34% of employers would pick up the tab for workers heading into an EMBA program.

With Wharton’s incoming EMBA class staring down a total price tag of $186,900—pursuing this advanced degree may seem financially unattainable. To be fair, Wharton is famously one of the most expensive programs out there. But others are starting to catch up at a brisk pace. For example: in 2011, Wharton’s EMBA program cost a total of $172,200 while Columbia’s was $148,320—a difference of $33,960. Today, the cost gap has dramatically narrowed as Columbia’s program now comes in at $182,280 to Wharton’s $186,900—a difference of only $4,620. That’s a fast change in only four years.

As prices are skyrocketing for EMBA programs and more students are being expected to foot the bill—or the majority of it—than ever before, is there any solution for mid-career leaders looking to advance without breaking the bank? We at Ivy Exec have compiled a few options for EMBA programs under $100,000 and in some cases, considerably less.

But a word of caution. As with anything, investing in education can often be an investment in a brand name. With the cache of a degree from Chicago’s Booth School or Northwestern’s Kellogg, you might be looking at a more impressive return on investment in future years. That said, having an EMBA alone could bring prestige and self-improvement, regardless of its provenance.

For the commuter:

San Francisco State University College of Business
Total cost: $49,923
Extra benefit: Great option for San Francisco EMBA students—never leave the City by the Bay.
GMAT: Waived.
Ranking: Unranked overall, #173 Best Part-Time MBA

Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business:
Total cost: $80,000
Extra benefit: Never leave Manhattan—Baruch College is located in the heart of the city’s Flatiron District. For EMBA students working in the city, easy access can be a lifesaver when juggling the commitment of an academic program on top of existing career obligations.
GMAT: Recommended but not required.
Ranking: #77 Best Business School, #58 Best Part-Time MBA

For the networker:

St. Mary’s College of California
Total Cost: $63,600
Extra benefit: Of all the lower cost EMBA programs, St. Mary’s has one of the largest alumni bases—upwards of 4000 graduates. Making professional connections is a valuable part of the EMBA experience and prospective students should consider a smaller alumni base to be a drawback in selecting a school.
GMAT: Not required.
Ranking: Unranked.

Cleveland State University Monte Ahuja School of Business
Total Cost: $49,900
Extra benefit: Because your cohort will have a major impact on your EMBA education, it’s important to surround yourself with other, seasoned professionals who can enhance your experience. The average Cleveland State EMBA student has 10 years of experience in his or her field—one of the highest averages you can find among programs with the lowest price points.
GMAT: Not required if applicant already has a Bachelor’s Degree with a GPA above 2.8 out of 4.0.
Ranking: Unranked.

For the ranking obsessed
University of Washington Foster School of Business
Total Cost: $97,500
Extra benefit: The University of Washington is one of the best bangs for your buck if sticking to the top 25 business school rankings is your priority. Coming in at #23 on US News and World Report’s ranking list, the University of Washington is just about as high as you can get on that list while staying out of the six-figure tuition range. With the average student boasting 15 years of professional experience and at least nine years as a manager, you’ll be in good company in your cohort.
GMAT: Not required.
Ranking: #23 Best Business School.

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.