A quick survey of total out-of-pocket MBA expenses at some of the world’s top business schools may leave you weak in the knees. The range is about $150,000 to over $200,000 USD. That’s before adding in lots of extra costs like travel, computers, and loan interest repayments.
Now most schools offer some sort of financial assistance. Harvard, for example, boasts that 65% of students receive some sort of financial aid.
But as an Indian applicant, you may have a few additional hurdles ahead as you secure financing for a U.S.-based MBA. The current 1 USD → 60 Indian rupee exchange rate means you’ll have to dig deeper into your bank account to cover costs. You also have fewer resources than U.S. citizens when it comes to securing loans if you choose an American MBA program.
What are your options then for financing your MBA?
Personal and family resources, company sponsorships
Most schools suggest you should first rely on your own savings, then assistance or loans from family. For those who’ve been savvy savers or lucky enough to have deep-pocketed relatives, this zero percent interest approach is a great way to start chipping away at your behemoth tuition fees and expenses.
If you plan to return to the company where you’re currently employed, then ask for a corporate sponsorship! Not only will this cut down on your costs out-of-pocket, but it may also enhance your chances of acceptance. Many one-year and accelerated MBA programs look very favorably on sponsored candidates as it means guaranteed tuition payment, and guaranteed job placement.
**Please note that all these resources are suggestions, not endorsements. Loan terms may be subject to change after publication of this blog post. Be sure to verify these sources on your own.**
Domestic loans from India
Start at home on your hunt for loans. But school financial aid websites can also be a good place to start! Cornell Financial Aid has a great website listing domestic loan options specifically oriented to Indian students. Columbia also has a page that lists domestic Indian loan and grant options.
US Federal Student Loans
Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for US federal student loans through the Department of Education, unless you are a permanent resident with a green card, or in the case of some other very rare exceptions.
Private US Loans
That leaves the private loan market as the only lender source for Indian nationals. It will take dedicated research to identify the right loan provider for your needs. Several US loan programs that did not require a creditworthy U.S. co-signor shut down in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Deutsche Bank then launched an alternative program in 2009 called ALPS (Affiliated Loan Program for Students) that was embraced by some top MBA programs, but they have since stopped offering loans to new borrowers. Lenders have a tendency to start and stop their programs frequently. It is thus best to confirm directly with schools that a loan program is still in existence before deciding to depend on it as a funding source.
Private US loans — no U.S. co-signor
Several MBA programs such as Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and others offer loans through credit unions that do not require a U.S. co-signor. Carefully read the terms of the loan though. Wharton’s program covers only 80% of the first and second year budget. Cornell’s arrangement funds “cost-of-tuition only less any scholarship received.” If you choose this option, you will likely have to cover additional expenses with another funding source.
Private US loans – with U.S. co-signor
Again, make school financial aid websites your first stop when on the hunt for such lenders. Check out numerous schools’ sites, even if you don’t plan to apply. They may have information on private loan sources that your choice hasn’t mentioned. For example, Cornell has a list of resources for private loans requiring a U.S. co-signor. Check it out!
School grants or fellowships, outside scholarships
If you’re a stand out applicant, it’s likely you’ll be offered some money to attend.
Schools make this decision as part of the application process. If you don’t receive an offer with your letter of acceptance, it’s likely you won’t be considered for an award. But after you’re accepted, it still never hurts to ask.
If you do receive money from one school, be careful and tactful about playing schools off each other to get more award money. Each program may have different criteria to determine who gets awards. Money may be available to you at one school, but not another.
Some schools make additional grants taking your background or nationality into consideration. Stanford just announced the new Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship that covers “everything for up to 5 Indian students to attend Stanford GSB, and the top 50 finalists for the Fellowship will even receive a break on applying – submitting Stanford’s application for free.”
Check out this list of other school fellowships oriented to students from developing countries. And again, scour your top choice schools’ financial aid websites for more information:
• IMD (Women): http://www.imd.org/programs/mba/fees/scholarships/Nestle.cfm
Finally, here’s a brief list of outside scholarships oriented to Indian students. They’re all competitive, but worth your time to consider.
• Aga Khan Foundation: http://www.akdn.org/akf_scholarships.asp
Every penny counts, especially those you don’t have to pay back!
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Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.