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Business program funding advice

Business program funding

Completing a business masters degree, MBA or business-related PhD may require a serious financial commitment. Tuition fees, student fees, educational resources, accommodation and basic living expenses needed to be accounted for. What are the factors you should take into account?

Most postgraduate business courses – even those in countries where undergraduate education is free or inexpensive – charge substantial tuition fees. When combined with the student fees, books, software and computer needs, and so on, the total direct expense can be tens of thousands UK pounds. When the indirect costs of attendance, such as housing and food, are added, the total can be over £30,000. For instance, the MSc in Finance at the London School of Economics has tuition fees of £21,600 and estimated living costs of more than £1,000 per month, for a total in excess of £30,000.

Are you eligible for financial aid?

Financial rules

Methods of calculating financial need may vary slightly from school to school but, generally speaking, schools in the same country have similar procedures.

The various formulas used to calculate need do not evaluate financial issues in the same way as governments do for tax purposes. An asset that can help you minimise your tax burden can hurt your chances of receiving financial aid and vice versa. Read all materials carefully before planning a strategy – ideally well before you begin a program.

Some forms of assistance are available to anyone, while others are granted only on merit, financial need, citizenship, or membership of a particular group.

Merit-based aid

Your qualification for possible merit aid is determined by the level of achievement or any unique contributions you may bring to a program. In most countries, for example, female candidates are highly sought-after to balance often male-dominated classes/courses in subjects such as IT. Similarly, ethnic diversity is also sought.

Need-based aid

Your qualification for need-based aid is determined by the difference between the total cost of your education and the amount you can contribute to it. Each country (for government funds) and school (for private, school-based funds) calculates need differently. The formulas generally take into account your income, savings, and assets. Many schools also take into account your parents’ (and partner’s, if applicable) financial resources.

Citizen-based aid

Citizen-based aid is granted only to citizens of a particular region, country, province or state. Aid from government is often citizen-based.

Types of funding

There are several sources of fudning you can consider to help you fund your business-related postgraduate program – let's take a look.

Grants and scholarships

These financial-aid awards do not have to be repaid, so competition for them is fierce. Universities and various organisations offer grants and scholarships to qualified applicants.


Special educational loans offer students lower interest rates and the option of delaying repayment after their degrees are complete. If you have insufficient funds to pay for your education yourself, you are likely to rely on loans for funding, whether from the school, the government, a special educational loan program, or a private bank.

Part-time work

Few programs offer students part-time employment opportunities during their studies. The reason is that most programs (rightly) see themselves as too demanding for students to have the time to work as well as to study.

Employer tuition fee benefits

Some firms offer special funding to employees to help them acquire postgraduate education. Most require beneficiaries to continue working for the company during the program (if part time) or to return after the program is complete. You should consider whether tuition fee reimbursement by your employer will be worth any limitations to career mobility.


Most business masters students fund their studies independently. This can be done in one of several ways: following a part-time program while continuing to work; saving sufficient funds to pursue a full-time program; borrowing money; tapping one’s parents; or relying on the support of a partner. (If a partner plans to move with you, investigate local visa requirements and enquire whether your program can help with finding employment.)

Deciding on debt

Business program funding Many students fund their studies through loans. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-interest loan programs for postgraduate students, so you should not have a problem finding one that suits your needs and repayment plans. Still, you’ll need to determine how much debt you can reasonably take on to finance the degree.

The general rule is that the better the school you attend, the more you can expect to earn from your first job and throughout the remainder of your career. Attending a better school thus makes a higher level of debt affordable. The question of how much debt is appropriate, however, will depend upon your individual circumstances.

Weighing the costs and benefits

As a rule, it’s easier to find funding for your studies at home than it is abroad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should stay at home for your program. Similarly, attending a lesser program for a reduced price is not necessarily wiser than paying more to attend a better school. You are making a long-term investment, so think in terms of value rather than cost. Indeed, the more likely it is that you will be able to enter a high-paying field, the less heavily debt should influence your decision.

Tax deductions

In some countries, funds paid toward a business masters degree may be tax deductible. In France, for example, tuition fees can be deducted from your personal income tax if the course ‘improves your own professional profile’, which is arguable the case for all business graduates. In the US, it is easier to deduct fees for part-time coursework than for full time.

The more expensive the program and the higher your marginal tax rate, the greater the value of being able to deduct your expenses.

The scholarship factor

When should you take a merit scholarship at a lesser school rather than pay the full cost at a better school? Consider these factors:
• How significantly does the quality and reputation differ between the schools?
• Do both schools offer the courses you want or other factors you consider important in a program?
• If the program is longer than a year, how much do you expect to earn during the summer break?
• What level of scholarship aid is available?
• What kind of salary can you expect at the end of each program?

Applying for aid

To prepare for your future masters program and for gaining financial assistance, begin by familiarising yourself with the financial aid application procedures and needs-determination methods at your chosen schools. Your financial situation should be organised well before you begin your program. Give yourself time to arrange your finances in the most beneficial way before applying for financial assistance.

When it’s time to apply for aid, read all the materials thoroughly. Make appointments to speak to financial aid officers at your target schools, and be prepared to explain your financial situation in order to find the best funding options at their schools. Keep track of what forms you need to fill out and the deadlines. Some scholarships have very early deadlines; other financial aid forms and scholarship applications must be submitted with your application; and still other materials may not be due until after a decision about your admission has been made.

When investigating your degree options, remember that the benefits of a good program usually outweigh its cost: improved job expectations, a network of contacts, greater career mobility and flexibility, and an increased income.

Finding scholarships

When looking for scholarships, keep in mind:
• Scholarships are given more often for merit than for need (the reverse is true for loans), so your odds improve with your own demonstrated professional promise prior to applying.
• Consulting services touting their abilities to find you scholarships are likely to be expensive and not very successful. Given that the field is rife with charlatans, you should avoid them altogether.

Start your research by taking an inventory of the groups to which you belong: your employer; union; religious, ethnic, veterans, and social (eg Rotary) clubs; and so on.

Next, look at the websites of the most famous, internationally orientated schools in countries you have targeted for your degree: they are excellent sources of scholarship information. France’s HEC, for instance, describes the relevant sources of financial aid (scholarship and loan) for nationals of some 20 countries. Some of these are specific to HEC; some are specific to those applying to French programs; others are available to such nationals applying anywhere. Thus, someone interested in applying to another French program would benefit from HEC’s extensive financial aid listings.

Then take a look at some generalist sources of information:
• websites (eg Institute of International Education (IEE) , International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) , FinAid , FastWeb , Education UK )
• worldwide scholarship guides (eg The Grants Register (Macmillan) (UK)). 

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