Advertiser Disclosure

MBA Student Debt: How Much Business School Students Borrow

MBA students finish business school owing an average of $66,300 in undergraduate and graduate student loans.
Sept. 27, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
MBA Student Debt: How Much Business School Students Borrow
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Students who graduated with an MBA at the end of the 2015-16 school year averaged $66,300 of debt, 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 that number may now be much higher for many students — especially those in top-tier programs. Bloomberg Businessweek surveyed more than 10,000 class of 2018 graduates from top business schools and found that nearly half borrowed at least $100,000 in MBA student loans alone.

Average debt at top business schools

The College Scorecard has preliminary data on average federal student debt by specific program. Here’s how much MBA student debt you could take on to graduate from some top business schools:

Business School NameAverage MBA Student Debt
Columbia University$94,248
Dartmouth College (Tuck)$64,591
Duke University (Fuqua)$81,571
Northwestern University (Kellogg)$116,420
Stanford University$58,332
University of California, Berkeley (Haas)$74,906
University of Chicago (Booth)$90,174
University of Michigan (Ross)$72,511
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
$83,336
Yale University$85,340

How much MBA student debt costs

Students have many options when figuring out how to pay for an MBA. Money you don’t have to repay — such as fellowships, help from an employer and savings — is the best choice. 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 $85,871 on the standard 10-year plan, assuming current interest rates.

Students who finish school with the average MBA student debt of $66,300 would repay $85,871 on the standard 10-year plan, assuming current federal student loan interest rates. That would equal a monthly payment of roughly $716.

Of course, borrowing more means repaying more. If you take out $100,000 to pay for business school, that would cost you $129,520 overall. In that instance, your loan payments would increase to about $1,080 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 starting salary for MBA new hires is $105,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

More than half of U.S. companies also offer new business school hires a signing bonus, per GMAC, with a median amount of $10,500. That equals a total compensation of $115,500. 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 $716 monthly payment is less than 10% of your discretionary income at $115,500, so you should feel comfortable putting extra money toward your loans. Throwing a chunk — or even all — of that signing bonus at your MBA student debt 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.

» MORE: Student loan refinance calculator

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.

About the author