How much does a part-time MBA cost?

BY Nicole Gull McElroyNovember 18, 2021, 2:05 PM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

Tuition immediately comes to mind when thinking about cost, but there is more to consider when enrolling in a part-time MBA program. How much you’re willing to pay for a part-time MBA program is likely a big part of your decision, and may be influenced by your goals, your lifestyle, and much more.

Part-time MBA programs were once a longer, nighttime alternative to full-time programs, but now they may be online, in-person, on the weekends or some hybrid of the above. As a result, costs can vary widely. “We have these definitions that all look a little different,” says D. Jill Green, associate dean of education and student experience at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School. “We have seen our part-time program grow year over year across the board.” 

To appreciate just how much costs can vary, consider two programs. At Johns Hopkins Carey, tuition for the Flex MBA program (which can be done online, in-person, or a combination of the two) totals just under $90,000. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, students attend class in person on weekends or in the evenings, and you’ll finish in about two-and-a-half years and nearly $150,000 in tuition costs. 

Intangible costs

Any degree program involves a variety of costs or investments to consider: what you’ll spend on coursework, books and other fees, as well as any add-ons your chosen program might offer and other intangibles you may not even consider until you’re mid-semester. While format and location play into your decision of an MBA program, no matter where or how you engage in a part-time MBA, there will be a significant investment of time you’ll need to manage around the other parts of your life.

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business offers two part-time MBAs built for working professionals. The weekend MBA can be completed in two years and is a structured, lockstep cohort-based program. The online MBA is a more flexible program that offers a mix of self-directed learning on your own time, collaborative work with faculty and classmates online, and intensive in-person residencies.

“Regardless of format, both of the part-time MBA programs at Michigan Ross are rigorous,” says Patti Russo, managing director of the part-time MBA Programs at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “Aside from scheduled class time, we expect students to work anywhere from 10 to 20 hours on their own per week, depending on their course load.” 

For Alex Klotsche, enrolling in the Flex program at Johns Hopkins made sense for a myriad of reasons. While flexibility and prestige were the main objectives in his program choice, being able to work and retain his salary to help pay for his degree was paramount. Then, of course, there were the logistics. 

“There is only a finite amount of time to divide between schoolwork, my current career, family, and myself,” says Klotsche, who works as a nurse care manager at New York-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell Medicine. “Life can be unpredictable, and the flex program allows me to accommodate life’s surprise while still being an MBA candidate.” 

Program add-ons

The pandemic has made online coursework more attractive for some students, while other students are still game to come into the classroom when the work day is through. And then there’s the issue of access—some people may not live near a program that fits the bill, while other people may have factors in their lives (young children, a spouse with a hefty travel schedule and demanding job, for example) that won’t allow the time commitment of a commute to class after work. 

At Chicago Booth, some students travel into Chicago to attend class on the weekends, which adds additional costs, like flights or the use of accrued miles, to complete the degree. If you’re commuting locally, there’s still a bill associated with that, too, whether it means fuel costs or the price of public transportation to and from school each week. 

Some programs, like Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, offer additional coursework or immersions that come with a separate tuition bill. Northwestern’s weekend and evening MBA programs are technically part-time, yet offer students a chance to travel for a global immersion at various points throughout the year. Those types of international opportunities come with an extra cost of program fees beyond tuition (usually a few thousand dollars depending on the program), travel, cultural outings, housing and living expenses while abroad. If you’re working full time, you may also need to take time off to attend the immersion. 

Bottom line

No matter the format, many top-ranked MBA programs will carry a total price tag of $60,000 on the affordable end to up to $200,000 for top tier programs. There are of course outliers; Boston University last year announced an online MBA program with a $24,000 price tag, while other schools offer add-on programs for study abroad and immersion curriculum to bolster industry experience that come with additional costs. 

Depending on your goals for pursuing an MBA, having a fancy school on your resume may not matter—or it could be a priority for you. If you’re self-funding your MBA what you can afford in terms of tuition may be different, than if your company offers total or partial reimbursement for coursework to offset your out-of-pocket contribution, or if you’re able to land a fellowship to help cover tuition. Villanova University, for instance, offers a part-time MBA called the Flex Track MBA. Students there are able to apply for fellowships, which involve working for faculty 20 hours per week for up to four semesters, to receive full remission of tuition for up to 12 credits. 

At John Hopkins Carey, the way a student chooses to cover tuition usually informs how quickly they can move through the program, Green says. If your company covers a certain amount per quarter and you’re relying solely on that reimbursement, the degree may take more time than if you’re able to cover a few credits in addition. There are also scholarships to consider.

“We have a real commitment to scholarship in our programs,” says Green. “Every student is considered. We look at their prior academic record and 40% are offered some sort of scholarship funding. Last year we gave out more than 1 million for our Flex MBA.” 

The school also offers endowed scholarships to enrolled students. Loans are, of course, a path to consider, too. It just depends on your salary and what you can and are willing to comfortably cover as your salary and career advances post-degree.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.