How to Pay for Your MBA
Thinking about getting an accredited MBA online? You should know that they can come with significant cost implications. And, unless you have a huge nest egg hidden away, this can keep many from enrolling.
This guide can help you assess and provide various (and creative) resources to plan for and pay those costs.
- Chapter 1 – Getting Started
- Chapter 2 – Low Cost (or Free) MBA Funding Options
- Chapter 3 – Going to a Bank or Financial Institution
- Chapter 4 – Paying Off Your MBA Loan
- Chapter 5 – Special Chapter for Veterans
- Chapter 6 – Special Chapter for International Students
Rushing into a top AACSB accredited online MBA program at the last minute is not in your best interests. At the last minute, you have little time to compare schools and programs. You may not be able to find the program that matches your requirements. Plus, time restrictions mean you have little control over the many processes involved. With time on your hands, you can comparison shop, find the lowest cost loans with the best terms. Do this at the last minute and you have to sign up for whichever loan you can get in the shortest possible time.
Leaving your planning until late? This creates a risk that that MBA program you scouted out has already filled with other qualified students by the time you put in your application. The ones that are open may be too expensive, have lower-quality instruction, or focus on specializations you don’t want to pursue. Either way, you compromise on critical aspects that affect the value you get from the online degree.
Investing early for your higher education
Finding the money for your online MBA is one of the biggest challenges you will face. What if you had already planned for this program and put aside the money you need well before you needed it? You can do this with a 529 education savings plan (named after the IRS Section 529). Some points about these savings plans:
- These plans are operated by the state or academic institutions.
- Their purpose is to help families/individuals put aside savings for higher education.
- You enjoy special tax benefits with the savings you have in these plans.
- A big plus about these savings plans is that you do not have to enroll in the same state where you have the plan. Before you enroll, check if your university is eligible under the plan’s rules.
- Your state may offer more than one such plan. You should do some research on which one will be ideal for you before you start saving up.
Know what factors impact your course cost
Before you apply, make sure you understand the various factors that will add on to your total cost when you choose an MBA program. There may be a host of other fees that you have to pay apart from your tuition fee or general fee. The UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School online MBA has a tuition fee plus mandatory fee. They also charge orientation fee, MBA Student Association fee, and Analytics Skills Workshop fee. At first glance, you may only look at tuition, but these additional fees can total up to a large portion of your bill. Calculate your total cost by adding the fees charged under the following heads:
Talk to Financial Aid Office at top schools in consideration
Visit the financial aid office of your university as soon as you start planning to pay for your degree. This office helps you identify and understand the financial options available to you. They can also help you apply for and get the financial aid. You can also explain to the financial aid administrator your situation and ask for advice. This office has the authority to adjust the university’s fee requirements to a certain extent. They keep in view the needs and circumstances of students like you. If you have a hardship, such as medical condition, unemployment, or special circumstances such as military service, the financial aid office can make adjustments in your fee structure to accommodate you.
- Here are some aspects that your school’s financial aid office should be able to help with:
- They can tell you about various financial options for which you are eligible.
- They can give accurate information about aid application procedure, formalities, and deadlines.
- They can inform you about the total aid you can expect, how you will get it, and when.
- They can educate you about taking a loan to fund your degree.
- They can give you instructions about making an appeal in financial aid decisions.
Different types of financial aid
You may be eligible for aid from the university itself. Your school’s financial aid office has information about these. For example:
- School Aid may be available for all students of the school, for all courses.
- Departmental Aid may be available to all candidates in different courses managed by the same department.
- Program Aid applies to the specific program you choose to enroll in.
Start with Free Money – Grants and Scholarships
Most of the students enrolling in MBAs do not have enough savings to finance the entire program on their own. Thankfully, free money is available from some sources. These come in the form of grants and MBA scholarships that you can use if you do not have enough savings. 25 of the top-rated B-schools give over $230 million in scholarship money during a year. MBA schools are keen on getting the best, most talented students on their rolls. This is why you should highlight your best qualities when making your scholarship application. Just like scholarships, grants are a good option to choose when you need funds for your online degree.
Grants vs. scholarships
Both grants and scholarships are free money, and do not need to be repaid to their originators. The major difference between them is the source of the money. Your scholarship may come from a school, a corporation, non-profit entities, or even an individual. They are usually based on your merit. Scholarships may also be given on basis of values or goals that the founder stands for. A grant comes from the government, a foundation, or a trust. It is usually given to an educational institution, a business, or an individual. For grants, the criteria may be something more general, such as family income. Some points to note about grants and scholarships:
Are you applying for a federal grant? You need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This is used to find out whether you are eligible for the grant. Some scholarships may need the FAFSA too. Generally, you will need to show your skills. You may be asked to by writing an essay or proving athletic ability to win a scholarship.
There are some scholarships that are open to students with specific backgrounds. For example, you may be eligible for one if you belong to a specific ethnic background.
Grants are for undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Scholarships are generally confined to undergraduate studies. For higher studies, you will often apply for private financial aid, also called fellowships. These are also given for research purposes.
International students may be able to apply for scholarships. Grants are for U.S. students only.
How to Improve Your Chances of Bagging a Scholarship
Almost all students applying for MBA programs will be applying for scholarships too. To improve the chances of your application being accepted keep these in mind:
- Research all possible scholarship options that are open to you. Apply for the ones that have the least competition. You can also apply for scholarships for which you have some special qualifications. These give you the best chance of winning the funds.
- Does your application show why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship? Highlight the points in your favor and make sure you communicate all your positives. Contact alumni or current students and learn what kind of scholarships they have. There may be some both from the school and from outside parties that are not well-publicized.
Non- conventional scholarships that you can win
If you think that scholarships are only for those with a history of academic excellence, you are in for a surprise. In recent times, creativity is being acknowledged and rewarded with scholarships. Many private organizations, businesses, and academic institutions are following this trend.
Check with your church for religious scholarships. Members of the parish or individuals participating in church activities are eligible for these.
Ask if your parents have connections or affiliations that can help with your scholarship. For example, children of U.S. Armed Forces personnel have special scholarships. Similarly, members of Rotary Clubs or Lion’s Club may be eligible for financial help.
Look for scholarships for specific ethnic groups, nationalities, or even gender identities. Search for options like the National Black MBA Association scholarship of $10,000. Businesses offer scholarships to encourage talented students in their niche industry.
Do not expect every school on your shortlist to show the same generosity with their grants. Some schools give away funds as grants, such as the Anderson School of Management. Others do not consider financial aid a priority.
How Do You Get the Grant Money? Contact the financial aid office at the school as soon as your application has been accepted. Talk to them and find out what kind of financial aid they offer. Remember that in many schools, this kind of free money may not be advertised well. You may not get to know about these options until you ask about them. Find out about the eligibility criteria and application process for grants and apply. Applying quickly is important because grants are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Some schools may not have grants that apply to all students. Or, you may be too late to apply for them. Check if the school has any grants for students with special circumstances. B-schools usually keep grants reserved for students who cannot afford the course. If you have huge debts or your income is low, you may qualify for these. Your school’s financial aid office has some discretion in the matter of grants. Explain your financial limitations to them in person. Present all the facts that show why you deserve a grant.
Once approved, a grant is usually paid when the semester starts. It is often paid directly to the school.
A List of MBA Grants and scholarships
- America Association of University Women- Accenture American Indian Graduate Level scholarship
- Military MBA
- Little Family Foundation MBA fellowship
- For Survivors
- National Society of Hispanic MBA
- Toigo Fellowship for African-American, Alaska Native, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Native American descent students
- Thurgood Marshall scholarship for African-American students
- National Black MBA Association Grants
- American Indian Graduate Center Fellowships
How to Improve Chances of Winning a Grant
Like scholarships, grants help reduce the financial burden of the MBA degree. This is why there is great competition for this form of financial aid as well. To improve your chances of winning your grant, you should follow these tips:
- Highlight why you are the ideal candidate for the program you want to enroll in and the grant.
- Choose grants that have specific requirements. These are likely to have fewer contenders.
- Find out about grants in advance and make sure your apply as early as possible.
Employer and Company Programs
Coming from a good business school makes you an asset to your employer. Your company has some great reasons to finance your MBA. Tell your employer why your online degree is just as good as a full-time classroom based one. Point out that an online degree won’t disrupt your work. Talk about how the company will benefit from everything you learn during the program. Finally, call attention to your achievements at work to show why investing in you in a good idea for your employer. Companies are open to the idea of online courses now. Many companies, like Starbucks, have reimbursement systems in place for just such a program.
How to check if your company has a Reimbursement Program
- Find out if your company’s policy encourages higher education for employees. If there is no mention of tuition reimbursement in company policy documents, talk to your higher ups. Ask if any support is given to employees who want to pursue academics while working.
- Talk to colleagues, especially those who have been in the organization for a while. If they have not made use of the tuition reimbursement themselves, they may know of others who did.
- Network with other MBAs at your workplace and check if they used the company’s funds to finance their degree.
- Talk to the human resources department or with your supervisors about your education. Ask about company financing options you may be eligible for.
Common ways for companies to pay for your education
- Some companies pay your fee or the part of it that they are sponsoring up front.
- In some companies, your tuition fee may be reimbursed if you achieve a high grade in the semester.
- Some companies pay for specific types of courses. Usually, they pay for courses that add value to their bottom line or improve their efficiency.
- Some employers pay a fixed percentage, say 30%, of your fee. This payment is yours irrespective of your course, your grades, or any other criteria.
Five things to think about before accepting company money
So, your employer is willing to help pay for your MBA degree? That’s great news, but there are some points to check for and keep in mind before you take the money. You may need to sign a formal document when you accept the funds. When you do this, you also agree to certain terms and conditions that are outlined in this contract. Check for the following before you sign up:
One: Does the contract bind you to the company for an unreasonably long time in exchange for the tuition reimbursement?
Two: Are there unrealistic terms in the contract that you may not be able to fulfill?
Three: What happens if circumstances beyond your control force you to quit the MBA midway?
Four: How is the tuition fee paid? Is it reimbursed, or paid up front?
Five: Are there any conditions to ensure that the full or partial fee/reimbursement will continue until your MBA is completed? Are these conditions acceptable to you?
- Does the contract bind you to the company for an unreasonably long time in exchange for the tuition reimbursement?
- Are there unrealistic terms in the contract that you may not be able to fulfill?
- What happens if circumstances beyond your control force you to quit the MBA midway?
- How is the tuition fee paid? Is it reimbursed or paid up front?
- Are there any conditions to be met to ensure that the full or partial fee/reimbursement will continue until your MBA is completed? Are these conditions acceptable to you?
Low Cost MBA Funding Options
‘Free money’ through scholarships and grants may not cover the full costs of your online MBA program. You may have to fall back on other funding options. Try not to worry, though, because these do not necessarily have to be expensive. Here’s a look at some low-cost funding strategies that can make your MBA journey smooth and stress-free.
Government Student Loans
Roughly two-thirds of graduate and undergraduate students borrow money to fund their college education. Government student loans are popular among a majority of individuals pursuing higher education. You have two options in government student loans: federal and state education loans.
Federal student loans
Federal education loans are given to students who have applied at a school that participates in the Title IV federal student aid programs. Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 provides loans, grants, and work-study funds from the government to eligible students seeking admittance to college or career school.
Loans are made available through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. They are paid out through the universities and colleges serviced by contractors to the U.S Department of Education. Most federal student loans do not require a credit check or a co-signer. The federal government offers a maximum loan principal of $57,500 to undergraduate students and up to $138,500 for graduate students.
If you’re a resident of a U.S state or you’re an out-of-state student enrolled in a university or college within a given state, then you can apply for that state’s student loan program. It is a good option if you’re not eligible for a federal loan program or a federal loan does not cover the full cost of your online MBA program. There are some more reasons why you may want to consider federal student loans:
One: They come with a fixed rate of interest, so your payments won’t increase even in a high-interest rate environment.
Two: Repayment terms can be more flexible than those offered by private lenders. For instance, if you expect to get a public service or low-paying job, you can apply for ‘income-based repayment,’ where you’ll make a fixed payment no more than 15 percent of your income.
Three: You can receive a deferment or forbearance that allows you to stop making payments for a while or reduce your loan payments. When you defer your loan, the government pays the interest on it throughout the deferment period. But this is restricted to the Federal Perkins Loan, Direct Subsidized Loan and/or a Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan.
The government keeps adding interest on Grad PLUS and unsubsidized Stafford loans, so your total debt will increase. Forbearance allows you to reduce making payments or stop making them for up to 12 months. Interest will continue getting added on your subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
Four: You are eligible for loan forgiveness and/or loan assistance if you, for example,
opt to enter certain careers or join the military. Here is a list of possibilities.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness:
- SEMA Loan Forgiveness
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness
- USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment
- National Institute of Health Loan Forgiveness
- IHS Loan Repayment
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment
- Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- Legal Practice Student Loan Forgiveness.
- Military Service Loan Forgiveness:
- Active Duty Health Professionals Loan Repayment
- Air Force College Loan Repayment
- Army Student Loan Repayment
- National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program.
- Volunteer with certain organizations:
- Peace Corps
- Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA).
Some of these may not be viable options for an MBA grad seeking a corporate job, but if you’re looking at a career in public service or a non-profit organization, loan forgiveness programs can ease your financial burden significantly.
A look at different federal student loan programs
We will now look at some federal student loan programs you can use to fund your MBA. You will need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for every loan program. The application is available online at fafsa.ed.gov and you don’t have to pay anything to file the form.
Federal Direct Student Loan Program
An Unsubsidized Stafford Loan (named after U.S Senator Robert Stafford for his work on higher education) is available to graduate students via the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. The loan is available to all graduate students regardless of financial circumstance. The interest rate is calculated annually using the rate on the 10-year Treasury note as of June 1. Interest accrues from the day the loan is paid out to your B-school. Your repayment starts once the loan has been disbursed, but you can choose to defer interest and principal until after you’ve graduated. The rate for the 2015-2016 academic year for graduate students is 5.84%.
Federal Perkins Loan
This is a subsidized student loan with a low interest rates given to students with ‘exceptional financial need.’ It considers such factors as student’s income and assets; parents’ income and assets; household size; and number of family members (parents excluded) attending post-secondary institutions. From this data, the Department of Education determines how much you can contribute towards your education using the below formula:
A percentage of net income + A percentage of net assets
Graduates are eligible for a loan amount of up to $8,000 a year and up to $60,000 for the full course of graduate schooling. Perkins Loans come with a grace period of nine months. You start repayment in the tenth month after graduating or becoming a half-time student. Forbearance or deferment are two options to consider if you struggle to pay back the loan. The rate on Perkins loans are fixed at 5%.
Federal Grad PLUS Loan
You can take out a Federal Grad PLUS unsubsidized loan to make up the rest of the funds needed for your MBA program. For instance, if the cost of an online MBA at a business school is $30,000, you can borrow up to the $20,500 limit in a Stafford Federal Direct Student Loan Program, and cover the rest with a Grad PLUS loan. Unlike other federal loan programs, you must pass a credit check. If there is a bankruptcy on your record or you have an account in collections, your loan may be denied. Grad PLUS loans come with the same loan forbearance and deferment options as a Stafford Loan. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the rate for graduate students is 6.84%.
Federal Consolidation Loan
As its name implies, you can use a Federal Consolidation Loan to consolidate various government loans that you have taken throughout your college career into one loan with a single monthly payment. It helps in streamlining the payment process and reduces your monthly payment over a longer repayment term. However, the total interest you pay over the life of the loan will increase.
A quick FAFSA tutorial
If you have to fill in the FAFSA but not sure where to start or what the process entails, here’s a quick tutorial you will be sure to find useful.
- Go to fafsa.gov.
- If you will be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, choose the correct FAFSA to fill in (2015-2016 FAFSA available on Jan 1, 2015). You do not fill out the FAFSA only once; it needs to be completed for each school year, as your financial circumstances may change.
- Next, fill in your birth information. Make sure you input your personal information exactly how it appears in your official documents.
- Enter all your financial information completely. You will need the income tax records for the year preceding the academic year for which you are applying. If you or your parents have not yet filed your 2014 taxes, you can use your 2013 tax return to estimate the amount. Upon filing your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA.
- Select up to 10 schools you want to apply to, and the U.S Department of Education will send the required information to the schools to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.
- Sign the document with your PIN (if you don’t have one, you’ll need to get one).
- That’s it! You’re done. Click on this to understand what happens next.
State student loans
State loans offered by state agencies may have their own names and terms. They work much like private student loans, requiring a credit check and a credit-worthy cosigner. Some state student loans may offer the same interest rate to borrowers without considering credit scores; others may match better credit with lower rates. Some loans may require borrowers to make at least interest payments while they are in school. State student loans impose a higher loan limit for graduate students than undergraduate borrowers.
The online phenomenon of peer-to-peer lending – known as crowdfunding – has evolved from catering mainly to start-ups to assisting individuals with funds for college education. It is surely a creative way of raising money, but is it for everyone? The pros and cons of crowdfunding and what it takes to be successful at it can help you decide whether or not it is a good option for you.
Advantages and disadvantages of crowdfunding
A reputed crowdfunding platform gives you the opportunity to reach out to investors, company CEOs, and even professors from top-tier universities. They consider fund seekers’ academic achievements and solid long-term goals in deciding whether they want to back them up financially.
Crowdfunding allows you to make a real connection with members of the public across the world with like-minded interests or with the financial means to specifically help students like you.
You can use crowdfunding to close the gap between how much you can afford to pay from your pocket, how much you’ve received in loans (federal, state or private) and how much more you need to pay costs in full.
The main drawback of this fundraising exercise is that it is rather unreliable – there is no way of predicting if you will get the financial support you seek. This is in stark contrast to a loan, scholarship or grant where you can estimate – based on the qualification criteria – whether or not you’re likely to be approved. Even before you start soliciting people for funds, you need to build interest around your project. It calls for an investment of time, resources and even skill to generate interest in you as well as your MBA aspirations.
Crowdfunding success stories
Students are increasingly turning to crowdfunding to cover some – even if just a little portion – of their college costs. Crowdfunding success stories are not hard to come by, but seldom do they involve large cash contributions. Take crowdfunding project ‘Get Amber to Harvard’ on GoFundMe.com, which left 27-year old Atlanta native Amber Boyd $3,179 richer. Boyd has an active online presence; she owns a website with a blog and an online store that sells a variety of products, from hand-made wallets to vegan cake mixes. Boyd also had a lot of help from her friends, who included links to her campaign on their social media accounts.
MBA student from Marylhurst University Simon Tam has raised a whopping $250,000 across a range of crowdfunding projects involving charitable causes as well as purchases for his music band. Simon Tam is a self-anointed marketing rock star (as his LinkedIn profile indicates) and a 7 time TED speaker with his own Wikipedia page and over 29,000 Twitter followers.
Keep these points in mind:
The takeaway from the success stories narrated above is that you need to be an active blogger and have a decent number of friends and followers on social media to spread the news about your funding campaign. Whether you are making an appeal on your blog/social media pages or a crowdfunding website, it helps a great deal if you have already formed trusted connections and relationships with like-minded people.
Crowd-lending sites like CommonBond and Zero Bound offer students loans with specific eligibility criteria, loan and repayment terms, and borrower protection. CommonBond is backed by institutional investors, individual investors and alumni networks who offer lower rates than private lenders, which according to its co-founder, add up to a little more than $17,000 in interest savings over the loan period. If you borrow from ZeroBound, on the other hand, there is no need to repay the loan. But, in order to get sponsorship, you’re required to do at least 30 hours of community service or contribute the same time to a non-profit organization. Consider these factors as well as the kind of borrower protection, deferment and forbearance terms offered by the sites.
If you’re raising money to pay for tuition and receiving donations, you will need to report it to the federal government. It does not matter for small amounts, but when the donations and school’s financial aid package together exceed the total cost of the online MBA program, then schools must suitably modify the student’s financial aid package. Usually, colleges reduce the student loans in the package first before looking at grants and scholarships.
Top 10 crowdfunding sites
Here’s a list of ten well-recognized crowdfunding sites for individuals:
If the bank of mom and dad cannot help, the bank of a wealthy and willing relative can ease some or all of your cost burden. It can initially feel a bit awkward, but don’t let hesitancy, shyness, or a ‘what will he/she think’ doubt get in the way. If your entrepreneur uncle or millionaire grandma cannot help you, you can just move on to exploring other options.
Pros and cons of getting a loan from a relative
A relative who is willing to lend you money is very likely not to charge any interest or even if he/she does, the interest rate will be much lesser than what you can get from a private lender. Moreover, it will be a fixed rate not tied to any index. Your relative will also be more willing to lend at flexible terms with regard to the loan term and repayment schedule. In fact, your relative may ask you to structure your own repayment plan. You also do not have to prove your credit-worthiness or worry about any background check!
The biggest disadvantage of borrowing money from a relative is that a late or delayed payment can cause some friction between the two of you. A lack of detail and legal documentation in a personal loan can also cause confusion and a difference in expectations between you and your relative. It is also possible that a personal loan may affect your relative’s tax liability or even be categorized as a gift and not a loan.
Four things to do when borrowing money from family
Being pragmatic about the whole thing can save you embarrassments and keep misunderstandings at bay. Here are five things to keep in mind when having a loan assistance conversation with your relative:
- Be honest and clear about your expectations. Explain your needs and financial situation frankly to your relative. It will build trust and help you get the dollar amount you need.
- Have a business attorney draw up a promissory note outlining interest rates and payment terms. Documenting terms and conditions can keep you and your relative on the same page, and protect your personal relationship.
- The loan documentation should include a repayment schedule (including interest) to ensure that all IRS guidelines for private lending are met.
- Plan out how you intend to repay the loan and discuss it with your relative. A front-of-mind awareness of your loan obligation can be that driving force that helps you excel at college and get a high-paying job.
Going to a Bank or Financial Institution
Borrowing from a bank or private lender should be an option only after you have exhausted your federal loan options. You can also request your university to once again review your financial aid package to make it more affordable to you. Even an extra one or two thousand dollars – a pittance for a major university – can make life easier for you. Treat private loans as a backup option as opposed to a preferred funding solution. Here’s a snapshot of how private loans work.
All banks and private lenders make higher education loans available to graduate students.
Interest rates can be fixed or variable. If a low variable rate looks attractive, think twice because it can double or even triple a couple of years down the line, and increase total loan costs. A fixed rate is a safer choice.
Credit checks and private loans go hand in hand. As many aspiring MBAs lack a lengthy credit history, a cosigner almost always comes into the picture.
The variable interest rates on private student loans are tied to an index such as the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) index. A good student loan rate is anywhere between LIBOR + 2.0% or PRIME + 0.50% without any hidden costs. Depending on your credit history and your cosigner’s credit-worthiness, you can expect to pay an interest rate between 3% and 12%. Unless you or your cosigner have a fantastic credit history, budget for an interest rate on the higher end of the scale.
While federal student loans have a fixed upper limit, a private loan can be as large as you want it to be. You do not want to take on a big six-figure loan or the maximum that the lender is willing to lend you. Borrow only the balance of what you really need after you have maxed out federal options, scholarships, and/or employee reimbursement. This balance should not be a large amount.
Lenders have their own terms and conditions on private student loans. Some may send you bills soon after you have taken out the loan while others may wait until you complete your master’s degree. Keep in mind that even if they are delaying billing, interest is still being added to the total debt.
Unlike federal loans where you receive guaranteed forbearance and deferment, private lenders make no such assurances. When you find yourself in a tough financial spot, you will need to request your lender for a deferment, which he may or may not grant. Even in a worst case scenario, filing for bankruptcy won’t help unless you can prove ‘undue hardship.’
What to Look Out for When Getting a Private Loan
The last thing you want is to be saddled by large interest rate payments and rigid payment terms imposed by a lender. Even if a private loan is your last resort or the only one, keep the following points in mind:
1. Compare loans online
Compare the interest rate and features of student loans from different lenders online. Use an online calculator to determine interest payments and how much you will end up paying over the course of the loan.
An approximate daily interest = Unpaid principal x interest rate/number of days in a year
Here are some online tools you can use to find affordable student loans and popular lenders:
- Certified Private Loans.com
Also review the reputation and track record of the lender with your local consumer protection agency or state Attorney General.
2. Consider all the features of the loan
Check for loan features like repayment options (example: income-based repayment) as well as deferment, forbearance, forgiveness, and death or disability discharges. Remember that the overall cost of your loan will depend on whether you started paying it off in school and the time you took to repay it. Most importantly, borrow how much you need, not how much you can (or the maximum).
3. Watch out for capitalization
On many student loans, the interest that accumulates during your school years (accrued interest) and whatever is delayed (unpaid interest) is added to your loan’s outstanding principal balance. This is known as capitalization and it can increase the amount you owe to the lender. It is important that you make interest payments to reduce capitalized interest.
4. Don’t assume that you will get the lowest advertised rate
Lenders usually advertise a range of rates from lowest (say 3%) to highest (say 12%). The lowest rate is available only to borrowers with stellar credit. So unless you have an amazing credit score, you will likely not get such a low rate. If the loan comes with a variable rate, then your future monthly payments will increase with a rise in interest rates.
5. Have an attorney look at your loan documents
Know who you are doing business with. Read the fine print in your loan documents to identify if the lender has added a term/condition/clause that wasn’t immediately apparent when you discussed the loan. Take help from family members, an attorney, or an accountant to understand everything you need to know about the loan.
How to Get a Good Bank Rate
A bank or private lender may offer you a low-interest rate based on a number of factors. These include:
- A good credit score: A high score not only gets you a quick approval but also a low interest rate. A minimum score of 650 is required to get a loan and the better your score, the greater your chances of landing an attractive interest rate.
- A credit-worthy cosigner: If you do not have an established credit score, you will need a loan cosigner. To get a good rate, it helps if the cosigner has a credit score of more than 680, a low debt-to-income ratio on his or her credit report, and a couple of years of established credit history.
- Make an appeal to the lender: Sometimes it is not you but your B-school of choice that can deter lenders from approving a loan or offering a low rate. Some lenders are wary of B-schools with a high loan default rate, particularly for-profit schools and those with a low graduation rate. Keep this attitude in mind if you seek interest rate discounts.
- Apply to a bunch of loans: When you have a variety of interest rates at your disposal, it makes sense to apply to different banks and lenders. Credit unions generally offer better rates than commercial banks, so consider a few top ones even if you’re not a member of the credit unions in question.
Paying Off Your MBA Loan
According to a news report, recent graduates have a $1.3 trillion mountain of student loan debt. One of the biggest responsibilities you will need to take on when studying and after you’ve received your degree is paying off your student loan. We have put together some tips that can help you keep debt under control. We have also listed federal loan forgiveness programs that can help you pay up to 100% of your education debt.
Six Ways to Address Repayment Challenges
Whether or not you keep your job or have trouble staying current with your payment, these tips can help you stay in control of your student loan debt.
1.Be aware of the nitty-gritty of your loan
Keep track of your loan balance and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details are crucial in determining your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you have taken out a federal loan, visit www.nslds.ed.gov to check all the loan details. For private loans, refer to the original paperwork or a recent billing statement.
2. Look at your student loan like a mortgage
If you can afford to make larger interest payments early on during the loan term, it will lower the overall cost of your loan and you’ll be able to repay it in a few years. If you can’t make a larger monthly payment, send in a check every two weeks.
3. Keep in touch with your lender
Intimate the lender about any change in your personal information, such as your email address or phone number. Read paper and electronic mails sent by your lender regarding your student loans. The idea behind staying in touch with your lender is that the lending company will be the first entity you will need to plead to if you struggle to make timely payments. Lenders are obligated to work with borrowers to solve their problems. It’s a win-win for both, so make sure you fulfill your part of the relationship.
4. Choose the right repayment options
Besides deferment and forbearance, federal loans offer you such flexible repayment options as ‘pay as you earn’ and income-based repayment. Private lenders may not offer such options, but they may allow you to make interest-only payments for a period of time. Carefully consider your repayment options and discuss them with your lender to control your debt.
5. Focus on paying off the most expensive loans first
As you would do with credit card debt, first pay off student loans with the highest interest rate. If you’ve taken out private as well as federal loans, start with the more expensive private loans.
6. Maintain financial discipline
Taking it easy and letting debt accumulate can risk a default and hurt your credit score. You can default on a federal loan after nine months on non-payment. Default kicks in more quickly for private loans, which can also be risky for the individual who co-signed your loan. Keep a tab on your spending, make sacrifices if you have to, and treat repayment with seriousness to avoid financial headwinds in the future.
If you are funding your online MBA through one or more federal loans, there are various programs that can forgive some or all of your debt. Here is a look at some state and federal loan forgiveness programs.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is the biggest federal government program that discharges any remaining debt after ten years of full-time employment in a public service job. To qualify for the program, you need to be employed in a 501(c)3 non-profit or private company providing public services. You can get the full list at the Federal Student Aid website.
To participate in this program, your federal loans must be issued through the Direct Loan Program. As mentioned above, PSLF benefits are activated after you have made 120 qualifying payments on your student loan. So, after enrolling in the PSLF, start making payments on an income-driven repayment plan as soon as you can. Next, you’ll need to file a Certification of Employment to show that your employer qualifies for the program. If you start making qualifying payments after July 1, 2017, you can claim your benefits in August 2027.
State level student loan forgiveness
Some (but not all) states provide an annual amount in loan forgiveness for high-demand jobs that benefit the community. Occupations in education, health services, veterinary services, legal services, and social work are covered under such programs.
The Navy, Army, Air Force and National Guard offer student loan forgiveness options for servicemen and servicewomen who have student loans. Additional programs are offered for former service personnel entering the health services field. Please see chapter 5 on ‘Low Cost Funding Options’ for links to loan forgiveness programs.
Perkins loan cancellations
You can have your Perkins loans canceled if you’re employed in a public service field such as health services, active duty in the military, public safety and education, among others. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for the federal Perkins loan cancellation and discharge summary chart.
Income-based repayment forgiveness
If you are on an income-based repayment plan, you can have the remaining balance on your student loan forgiven after 20 or 25 years provided you’ve made timely payments. The balance amount remaining will be forgiven but also treated as taxable income.
Once your loan is discharged, any adverse credit resulting from a default may be dropped off. If you defaulted on the loan, your default status is removed. In most cases, borrowers cannot appeal on the decision to approve or reject loan discharge. The only exceptions are when you receive a discharge for false certification or forged signature; you can have the denial reviewed by the U.S Department of Education. Here are the conditions for eligibility:
Your school wrongly certified your loan eligibility.
Your school signed your name on the promissory note or application without authorization from you. Or your school signed your authorization for electronic fund transfer without your knowledge.
Your loan was falsely certified after you suffered identity theft.
The school certified your eligibility, but you were disqualified from working in an occupation for which you trained owing to a physical or mental condition, criminal record, or your age.
Refinancing Your Student Loan
There is no federal refinancing that you can use to lower the relatively higher interest rates on Grad PLUS loans. However, some private lenders refinance federal student loans at lower rates. The question is, should you refinance or not? Consider the following points to make an informed decision:
How much money can you save by refinancing?
Do you want to forfeit the benefits and protection (in the event that you are laid off) offered by an income-based repayment plan?
What kind of repayment terms can you expect on the refinanced student loan? Refinancing will change your loan’s terms. Unless you can get better terms from a private lender, it may not make much sense to refinance.
If you have graduated recently, started considering a job change, or been underemployed, stick with your federal loans for the flexible repayment options they provide. If you have a comfortable and financially secure job, and you are looking to get rid of student loan debt as soon as possible, you can explore refinancing further.
Consolidating Your Student Loans
When you consolidate your loans, you basically take out a new loan to pay off a number of smaller loans. A consolidation loan combines multiple loans into one fixed interest rate and a single monthly payment. Consolidation often lowers monthly payments but increases the overall interest costs over the life of the loan by extending repayment. Consider it if you want to make smaller monthly payments and focus on only one loan.
A number of federal student loans can be consolidated. Consider the benefits of your original loan, such as loan cancellation options, interest rate discounts and principal rebates that you may lose by consolidating it. If your loan is in default, consolidation can get you back into current repayment. Think twice before consolidating your federal loans into a private consolidation loan. You will lose all the borrower rights and protection offered by the federal loan programs when you consolidate with a private lender.
If your credit score is better now that it was when you first applied for private student loans, consolidation can fetch you a lower interest rate. Look exhaustively for low or fixed interest rates, and make sure you understand the fine print before signing on the dotted line.
Special Chapter on Funding for Veterans
Veteran applicants to B-schools have real-world experience dealing with stressful situations and bring their unique perspectives to class projects and student-professor interactions. In recent years, B-schools have increased efforts to attract veterans. If you have served in the nation’s armed forces, then you are eligible for financial benefits that can make an online MBA more affordable.
Post-9/11 G.I Bill
If you are a US veteran who has served on active duty at least 90 aggregate days after September 10, 2001 or served at least 30 continuous days on active duty after September 10, 2001 and received a discharge for disability, you are eligible for the post-9/11 G.I Bill. After you have separated from service, you have 15 years to use the benefits of this bill.
You do not have to use up your GI Bill all at once. You can take some time off and re-apply to use the bill at a future date. You can use the bill’s benefits to complete your associate degree, take up your bachelor’s degree and then acquire your online MBA degree.
The bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits. There are three different types of benefits:
The post-9/11 G.I Bill pays according to different factors. The main ones are the number of months served on active duty and the number of credits you’re pursuing. You may be eligible for the full costs of tuition and fees. Tuition and fees are paid directly to your B-school.
A stipend of up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies paid directly to you.
Monthly housing allowance (not applicable for an online MBA program), paid directly to you.
So far, the bill has paid out more than $30 billion in financial aid to veterans. Visit the website of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs to see the current payment rates under the bill.
Sometimes, the tuition and fee costs of a for-profit private B-school may exceed the amounts provided under the post-9/11 G.I Bill. In this case, a component of the bill – known as the Yellow Ribbon Program – can make additional funds available for your MBA program. You are eligible for benefits under this program if you have served an aggregate of 36 months in active duty after September 10, 2001 or you were honorably discharged from active duty owing to disability and you served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001.
Degree-granting institutions must voluntarily participate by entering into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with Veteran Affairs and determine the tuition and fees they are willing to contribute. First check if the B-schools you’ve earmarked are participants in this program.
Special Chapter on Funding for International Students
If you are an international student looking to pursue an online MBA program from an American university, you will have to think about how much the degree will cost you. It is important that you start looking at financing options well in advance and keep track of all payment due dates. Here is a look at some financing solutions you can explore.
Universities reserve a major portion of their financial assistance for citizens. The only way to understand the kind of assistance provided to international students is to talk to the university’s office for international students. It is important to have this conversation early on so that you can refine your list of potential B-schools according to your financial circumstances.
International students are not eligible for federal student loans, but the government does offer limited financial assistance to eligible students from certain countries. For more information, contact the Agency for International Development, U.S Department of State, and your embassy.
A bank loan in your country
Private loans are a popular option for international students. Shop around and do your homework before zeroing in on a private loan. Some of the questions you want to ask the lender are:
- What is the best fixed rate I can get?
- What is the lowest interest rate and fee combination you offer?
- How high can the rate go on variable interest rates?
- Is there an early repayment penalty?
The only way for an international student to take out a private loan with a U.S bank is to have a relative who’s a credit-worthy U.S citizen cosign the loan. To make it easier for foreign students, leading schools – including Duke Fuqua and Wharton – have partnered with credit unions to offer loans to MBA students without requiring a cosigner. The Fuqua school has tied up with Coastal Federal Credit Union to offer international students up to 90 percent of their attendance costs at an interest rate of 8.25%.
Some business schools offer scholarships to international students. These include such financial awards as Kenan-Flagler’s Merit Fellowships for both foreign students and domestic students, as well as awards targeted only at international students, such as Wharton’s Emerging Economy Fellowships. Here is a list of some more scholarships and resources for international MBA students:
- Fulbright Foreign Student Program
- Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship Program
- Soros Foundation
- Eduardo Justo Foundation
NAFSA: Association of International Educators is a good resource for news and information on financial aid for international MBA students. The website provides resources and links to other student websites for more information.
FinAid is a comprehensive resource of financial aid information for international students. Besides a wealth of information, it also provides tools and advice to students who want to fund their online MBA.
Scholarships, there are hundreds of them, and a considerable number are geared specifically for MBA majors. By focusing in on just Scholarships for MBA programs, you can increase your chances of getting assistance while pursuing your education.
Finding specific scholarships for MBA programs, however, can be tricky and time-consuming, but we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you by tracking down a few of the most popular search options for graduate and MBA students.