There are myriad reasons to consider when deciding on which MBA program is the best fit, but one which often gets buried is affordability. Have you done a price comparison analysis on your target programs?
While it’s true that the cost of an MBA program is arguably irrelevant compared to other core attributes which better determine true fit, there is value in considering your finances when going back to b-school, especially if you find yourself with multiple admissions offers. If you are one of the lucky ones to have received more than one acceptance, and if you have evaluated your options and determined it to be a toss up, you might want to break down the cost of each school, just like you would in any other price comparison analysis.
It’s easy to look up tuition costs, but you’d be making a big mistake if you stopped there when comparing total costs to attend.
Schools often have thousands of dollars in fees which are not included in core tuition, and while textbook costs will likely be similar across various programs, you might want to look into other required classroom expenses, such as having to purchase a specific type of computer, or software package. These ancillary materials can add up fast and can often make a big difference in how much a program seems to cost on the surface.
One thing candidates often fail to consider when comparing ticket prices, is to factor in where a school is located.
Not only does rent for housing vary widely from program to program, the city or town in which a school is located can also add considerably to your expenses over a two year period. Clearly living in New York or the Bay area on the West Coast has a higher cost of living, but you might also be surprised at the relative cost of living in, say, Austin, Texas or Nashville, Tennessee as well. These cities have seen tremendous increases in recent years, so make sure you do some local market investigations, whether they be in person or online. Even the type of climate you will be living in can affect your expenses--ever braved a winter in Ithaca, NY, for example? You might need to buy some warmer clothes than if you went to school in Miami.
Generally speaking, the more remote a school is, the lower the cost.
Some low-cost items out in the hinterlands include automobile expenses (parking, tag, registration, etc.) and groceries, but the lack of competition for goods and services can also mean higher prices in other categories. Getting your hair cut or shopping for clothes or home goods are necessary expenditures which can ultimately drive you into debt, and consumer debt is a horrible thing to inflate while you have low or no income. Sure, you will make money at your internship, but don’t forget you often must maintain two residences during your internship summer, since landlords back at school may not allow you to move out or sublet while you are away.
In the end, it’s better to choose a school which may cost more, but is a better fit academically, professionally and culturally, but if you make this choice for a school which is more expensive, you should begin now saving your pennies and committing now to earmark your potential signing bonus and any leftover internship salary for the extra expenses.