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The average business school debt was $66,300 in 2015-16, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. That amount includes loans for an undergraduate degree and MBA student debt.
But if you're planning to take out MBA student loans, you may borrow much more than that — especially if you attend a top-tier program. In a survey of more than 10,000 class of 2018 graduates from top business schools, Bloomberg Businessweek found that nearly half borrowed at least $100,000 for their MBA alone.
Here's what the average MBA debt looks like at top business schools, and how you can prepare to manage repayment.
Average debt at top business schools
Here’s the average MBA student debt at some top business schools, based on federal student loan data provided to the Department of Education's College Scorecard:
Business School Name
Average MBA Student Debt
Dartmouth College (Tuck)
Duke University (Fuqua)
Northwestern University (Kellogg)
University of Chicago (Booth)
University of Michigan (Ross)
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
How much MBA student debt costs
Students have many options when figuring out how to pay for an MBA. The best choice is money you don’t have to repay — such as fellowships, help from an employer and savings. But 51% of MBA students end up taking out loans, according to NCES.
Students who finish school with the average MBA student debt of $66,300 would repay $88,328 on the standard 10-year plan, assuming a 6% interest rates. That would equal a monthly payment of roughly $736.
Of course, borrowing more means repaying more. If you take out $100,000 to pay for business school, that would cost you $133,225 overall. In that instance, your loan payments would increase to about $1,110 each month.
MBA student debt calculator
How to repay business school debt
Ideally, you’ll feel comfortable taking on MBA student debt based on your post-business school salary. The median salary for MBA new hires in 2020 is $115,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.
If your earnings are in that range, the best MBA student loan repayment strategy will likely be to minimize the cost of your debt by doing the following:
Paying off loans faster. A $736 monthly payment is less than 10% of your discretionary income at $115,000, so you should feel comfortable putting extra money toward your loans. Throwing a chunk — or even all — of any signing bonus you receive would cut down on interest costs as well. Use a student loan payoff calculator to see how much prepaying your loans could save you.
Refinancing your loans. You may increase your savings by refinancing MBA loans at a lower interest rate. In addition to a strong income, you’ll need good credit to qualify. Before refinancing federal student loans, make sure you don't need or won’t qualify for benefits like Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you already have private MBA loans and can get a better rate, there’s little downside to refinancing.
If your earnings won’t support those strategies, or you’ve prioritized other goals — like buying a home or starting a family — consider MBA loan repayment options that will keep your debt affordable, such as enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. MBA loan forgiveness programs are also available, but typically only for students who work at a nonprofit or otherwise serve the public.