Full-Time vs. Part-Time MBA: Comparing Your Net Cost

May 20, 2019 | by College Coach

If you are weighing the pros and cons of attending a full-time or part-time MBA program, you’re not alone!

Many corporate professionals struggle with this decision, as there are various factors to consider. Are you excited (and maybe a little scared) to leave your full-time job to immerse yourself into a program for two years? Or do you prefer the flexibility to keep your work – and perhaps family – life intact while you juggle attending b-school part-time in the evenings and/or weekends? Beyond these differences, analyzing your net price is another key factor that influences your decision making.

First, calculate the total program cost. Review each program’s published cost of attendance. But understand that the cost of attendance only shows one academic year at a time. Fortunately, some institutions make this easier for you by providing the cost of attendance for the full program. This is rarely done for self-paced part-time programs. If they don’t publicize the total program costs, ask the financial aid office to help you estimate the total cost.

You may need to do some calculations on your own for part-time programs. Multiply the tuition cost per credit by the total number of required credits. Understand that the cost of tuition tends to increase each academic year by 3-6% (give or take). How many credits do you plan to enroll in each term and how many terms are in a year? This will help determine the total number of terms and to add in any per term fees (e.g. student fee, registration fee, books, etc.).

For full-time MBA programs, estimate your annual living expenses for the two-year program. Don’t forget about health insurance. If you lose coverage when you leave your job, the school will have a plan that you’ll be required to enroll in. The annual cost could be anywhere from $2,000-$4,000 per year. Do you have any of these funds saved, or will you need to borrow student loans to help cover the costs? Since you’ll likely keep your full-time job while enrolling in the part-time MBA program, ideally you’ll be able to focus on the billable costs of the program.

Once you’ve broken down your estimated total cost for each program that you are considering, here’s where the fun begins – calculating your net price! For full-time programs, you really can’t do this until after you apply and have been accepted to a program. This is when you’ll find out if you have been awarded any grants,scholarships, and/or fellowships. If you have, find out if the funds are renewable for your second year. If so, what are those requirements? Is the amount based upon a percentage of tuition or is it a set amount? Are there any additional awards that you’ll be able to apply for prior to the second year?

Part-time programs rarely have grants, scholarships, or fellowships available. However, it does not hurt to ask about them as there may be a small award available for some programs. Does your employer offer a tuition assistance program? Now is the time to dig in to the details of the tuition assistance policy and calculate how the funds will help you with your part-time MBA. If it is a reimbursement program (which most are), you will not receive the reimbursement until you complete each course and submit your grades. Create a plan to cover the costs at the beginning of each term, whether by paying out of pocket, borrowing a student loan in the interim, or, even better, does your school offer a deferred payment plan, allowing you to delay payment until you receive the reimbursement?

All told, your net cost for each MBA program will be unique. Full-time programs may or may not be significantly discounted with grants or scholarships. Part-time programs may or may not be funded in part (or even fully) by your employer. If you are comparing full-time and part-time MBA options, be sure to consider all these financial details along with the numerous key factors.

Michelle Clifton is Senior Manager of College Finance at College Coach, the nation’s leading provider of educational advisory services to organizations and families. Michelle has spent the majority of her professional career in higher education. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and volunteers for FAFSA Day Massachusetts, where she guides students to complete the online financial aid applications.

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