With an MBA degree now equivalent to a six-figure sum at top US schools, it is easy to see how the price can dismay international students, who also often have to fork out on travel and living expenses.
Yet there is a ray of hope on the horizon, as there is a wealth of scholarships available for international students who want to get an MBA in the US. Many US schools have strived to make their classrooms more representative of the world: diversity is a priority, and they are prepared to pay for it.
Eliminating financial barriers is most definitely a focus for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, says Shari Hubert, associate dean for admissions. “Our international students bring a uniqueness to our culture and community that is invaluable to the student experience, especially given the global and geopolitical context we live in today,” she says.
When Fuqua analyzed data from the last three years, it found scholarships offered to international students had gone up almost 60 percent. Fuqua offers scholarships awarded based on merit, for which all applicants are considered.
A bevy of other top schools offer scholarships, either based on merit or on need. “Today’s MBA applicant appears to be quite price sensitive and very concerned with the return on their investment. Lowering the cost of an MBA through a merit-based financial aid award does make the MBA degree more accessible,” says Jim Holmen, director of admissions and financial aid at the Kelley School of Business in Indiana.
And with so many business schools competing for the same pool of applicants, there’s never been a better time for MBA students to request and negotiate for maximum merit-based aid. “Factors commonly cited in allocating merit-based aid include attracting students from traditionally underrepresented groups,” says Alex Min, CEO of admissions consultancy The MBA Exchange.
“Students who are successful in getting additional merit-based aid are those who manage their post-admissions communications thoughtfully, carefully, and respectfully,” he adds.
“They convey genuine enthusiasm around the offer of admission, and gratitude for additional time and consideration invested by the school in considering a revised aid offer.”
MBA scholarships for international students offered by US business schools
See a list of all MBA scholarships in FIND MBA's Scholarship Directory.
Kelley Merit Fellowships — The fellowships are available to students who show strong academic and leadership skills and range from $10,000 to $25,000 for each academic year. Awards given to first-year students can be renewed in the second year.
Joel Dean Scholarship — First year students at Virginia’s Darden School of Business from an unrepresented minority group with financial need, can apply for funding.
The Wallman Fellowship — At University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, MBAs who show outstanding potential can apply for the cash, with underrepresented minority groups and women preferred.
The Forward Focus MBA Scholarship — Arizona’s W.P. Carey School of Business offers the award only to full-time MBAs including internationals. It’s funded by university donors and covers 100% of their tuition fees — currently $98,800 for international students.
Global Fellowships — The $25,000 awards are offered to students in Kelley’s full-time MBA program. Priority is given to students from Latin America or those with work experience at companies in the region.
Private scholarships for international MBA students
Forte Fellows — The program was created to boost the number of women in business schools. Students of all nationalities are eligible to apply. To date, schools including top US ones such as Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth College and Georgetown McDonough, have dished out $142 million to more than 6,300 Forte Fellows.
Consortium for Graduate Study in Management — the organization offers fellowships for MBAs with strong academic credentials and a proven record for promoting inclusion in their school, job or personal life. It’s designed to boost the representation of minorities in US business schools.
American Association of University Women (AAUW) — the association offers awards to female students at top US schools such as Wharton who are domestic or international. International fellowships provide between $18,000-$30,000 and overall AAUW has provided $3.7 million in funding over the past year.
Government/institutional funded scholarships for international MBA students
While much financial assistance is specific to business schools, there are general sources of funding aspiring MBAs can apply for.
Fullbright Foreign Student Program — among the most well-known US government-funded scholarships, Fulbright is available to graduate students including those at business schools who study for a minimum of one year. It provides cash to 155 countries worldwide, with approximately 4,000 foreign students receiving the scholarships each year.
OFID Scholarship Award — The OPEC Fund for International Development provides scholarships to those studying master’s degrees at accredited universities around the world, including America. The awards are worth up to $50,000, covering tuition fees and a monthly allowance for living, accommodation, travel and other expenses.
Loan assistance programs
Fuqua Loan Assistance Program — Fuqua has a generous loan assistance program for internationals, which makes it easier for them to invest in their education. International students using a no-cosigner loan option may borrow up to 90 percent of their cost of attendance — estimated by Fuqua to be $186,630 in total for the two-year MBA.
Columbia Business School Loan Assistance Program — Columbia in New York City offers loan assistance to encourage MBAs to take management positions in the public and non-profit sectors, which typically pay less. International MBAs are eligible to apply and applicants earning $80,000 or less are given priority for the scheme. Loan assistance ranges from $2,000 to $10,000.
NYU Stern Loan Assistance Program — the program provides finance for those who wish to pursue career paths in social enterprise, which tend to have smaller compensation packages than traditional MBA careers. MBA graduates can apply within the first 10 years of graduation to help them pay off their student debt.
[See the Top 10 MBA Programs for Scholarships]