Why I Didn’t Go to a Top Tier MBA Program

by Kevin on June 5, 2009

Yesterday I gave you some tips on how to pick an MBA program. I feel somewhat qualified to give advice in this area because I just went through it.

I graduate in August and hope not to set foot back into a classroom (at least one that I’m paying to be in!) for quite some time.

Today I’ll share with you why I picked the school I ended up going to for my MBA.

The Cost of Attending a Top Tier Graduate School

These were the things we considered as we tried to select a graduate school for me:

  • We didn’t want to move. I had been in my new job for a year and my wife had just landed her first teaching job. We could have moved, but really didn’t want to.
  • We were looking to buy a house. Again, we could do this in another town so we needed to make a decision on my MBA program before we made any commitments on a home.
  • We didn’t want to go into debt. Here’s a big shocker! This personal finance blogger didn’t want to carry the $100,000 in debt that would be required to go to a top school.
  • We didn’t want to lose my income. Living off of a teacher’s salary while moving to a new city with new (potentially higher) living costs was not a thing we were openly embracing.

Full-time programs (typically those at the top are full-time) require you to take 2 years off from work. Your studying is your work. The benefit of all this hard work is you’re pretty much guaranteed a great job somewhere in a huge megacorporation. Many of those MBA programs were funneling students into Wall Street before the financial crisis.

Compared to part-time programs that still finished in the same period of time we felt there wasn’t much of a benefit to the top-tier schools.

The Upside to Small or Part-Time Graduate Programs

The upsides to smaller or part-time schools mirror the costs of a top tier school:

  • We wouldn’t have to move
  • We could continue to live in our current city
  • We wouldn’t have to go into 6 figures worth of debt
  • We wouldn’t lose my income

Win, win, win, and win. We technically went into debt, but my employer is going to end up paying for about 2/3rds of the overall cost — another benefit of keeping my job.

My program is small… about 100-130 students. Many of them are paid for by employers and thus are taking their time and spreading the costs over multiple years. I’m knocking my studies out in two years, then I’ll owe one additional year to my employer. (If I left before then I would have to pay back some of the money they gave me, which is fair.)

I’ve been able to keep working and growing with my current employer and will get a heavily discounted education because of it. It’s a great deal.

The only downside is my school doesn’t have the same “name brand” as Harvard or Duke. Yet in our area the name does mean something. I’m not planning to move too far away any time soon, so hopefully potential future employers will know my school’s name.

It’s been an interesting ride. One I’m ready to finish! Woohoo!

Comments on this entry are closed.