Total Cost To Attend A Top 50 Business School

The N. Eldon Tanner Building, home of the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott School of Management

The N. Eldon Tanner Building, home of the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University


Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson

Brigham Young’s Marriott School is a study in contrasts. For one thing, it is the cheapest four-year undergraduate business school program in Poets&Quants‘ new ranking. But unlike all the other schools, the great bulk of that $71,058 cost does not come from tuition but from cost of living.

Tuition at Marriott is just $20,300, by far the lowest among P&Q‘s top 50. (No. 39 Elon University’s Love School of Business is close at $32,172.) The reason? The school, like the wider university, is heavily subsidized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Which is also where the catch is: Only Mormon students get the lower tuition — all others must pay “twice that amount,” says Michael Thompson, BYU assistant dean and director of undergraduate programs. That means the total cost of a four-year business degree for all non-LDS students is actually $91,358.

LDS or non-LDS, living expenses still drive the majority of the cost for Marriott students, at an estimated $50,758. Those expenses fall somewhere in the middle of the rankings pack, the low end being Kelley ($37,748) and the high end being Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business ($78,399).

“We have, in a relative sense, incredibly low tuition,” Thompson tells Poets&Quants. “And so I’m not very surprised that that ratio is what you indicate. The primary reason tuition is as low as it is, is that we are subsidized by the church. This is a church-sponsored university, and the board of trustees is made up of general authorities of the church, which includes the group that we call the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles. … There is a great deal of financial participation in BYU by the church, and there is a great deal of oversight and guidance.”


When it comes to the cost of living, however, “I don’t know how they arrived at that estimate,” Thompson says of the statistic provided by Marriott in answer to P&Q‘s survey.

Excluding Marriott and its unique financial appeal to Mormons, the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business is the cheapest undergraduate program among P&Q‘s top 50. Trulaske’s total cost of $73,818 for students with Missouri residency is about $10,000 below the four-year in-state total for Kelley and about $13,000 below the in-state cost for Fisher.

At the other end of the spectrum is McDonough, where the cost to attend is $279,190, just edging out No. 3 University of Pennsylvania The Wharton School ($277,360), No. 13 University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business ($278,844), and non-resident tuition at No. 6 Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management ($270,452).

As Patricia Grant, McDonough’s interim senior associate dean for undergraduate programs, points out, while the school is costly its students go on to be employed at a very high rate post-graduation: 100% of 2015 grads had jobs within six months, at an average total compensation of $76,868. Still, a high proportion of McDonough students received need- or merit-based scholarships (55.2%), at a yearly average of $42,794, the highest average for any reporting school.


Marriott and Missouri Trulaske were among a handful of schools that did not divulge data on scholarships — that is, percentage of students receiving merit- or need-based aid. But most schools did, as well as the average amount their students receive on an annual basis. Tops on the percentage of students getting aid: SMU Cox, where every student — yes, 100% — receives merit-based scholarships, according to Anna Martinez, director of media relations. The scholarships average $32,704.

Other schools with high numbers of scholarship recipients include Indiana Kelley (93.2%, $9,338), the College of New Jersey School of Business (93%, $10,360), and Denver University’s Daniels College of Business (86%, $25,635). The percentages and amounts can be explained by the cost of attending each school: $173,362 out-of-state for Kelley, $165,455 out-of-state for Jersey, and $226,061 for Daniels. Meanwhile, the school reporting the fewest students receiving some form of scholarship aid was costly Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, with a four-year price tag of $247,892. Goizueta reports only 28% of students receiving scholarships — though the average amount, $32,720, is seventh among schools that reported a figure.

As Lynn Wooten points out, in addition to scholarships there is a lot of financial aid going on at B-schools — in particular, loans. “It all depends on what your income bracket is,” Wooten says, adding that while 37% of Ross students get scholarships averaging $26,800, a far slimmer proportion rely on loans — and so the percentage of students who graduated with debt from Ross is only about 18%. (They owe, on average, about $34,000, Wooten says.) That’s by far the fewest in P&Q‘s top 50, far less than the chart-topping 65.6% who graduate with debt from No. 34 University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, or even the 28.8% at No. 47 Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.

As far as debt goes, Wooten credits Ross students with generally having the wherewithal to cope with the expense of attending the school, family participation being the biggest factor. Closest to Ross’s debt-burden number is the 24% of students who graduate with debt from BYU. Michael Thompson has a similar explanation for Marriott’s students. The low number with debt — and their low debt: they owe just $3,241 on average — may be a result of students being “a self-selected group,” he says.

See the next page for a complete list of the costs to attend each of the top 50 schools according to Poets&Quants‘ inaugural in-house ranking.

  • Vijay

    Sticker price comparison is meaningless as that will not be the cost incurred by most of the students. What is more meaningful is to take 3 or 4 case scenarios of financial status and show what would be the actual cost after accounting for financial aid for each scenario. Financial status like – under 75K household income, under 125k, under 200k and above 200k and show how much it would actually cost for each of these scenarios. Another vairiation of this is when one more sibling is attending the school at the same time.

    • JohnAByrne

      Obviously, financial aid varies from school to school and from one student to another. Some schools put more scholarship money on the table but may use the money for merit–not need. Others may have a different approach. So sure, we could ask schools to estimates these numbers by household income but I’m not so sure it would be all that meaningful.

      • Akhil

        Hi John,

        I have been watching a lot of your youtube videos, regarding the so called MBA odds and found most of the videos very informative on a comparative basis. Im still in my 3rd year of undergrad studies at HKUST in Hong Kong. Something, that I wanted to know was, what is the reputation/intake of students from Asia. HKUST happens to be the leading MBA school in Asia along with INSEAD. I expect to graduate with a cgpa of 3.3 but major gpa of 3.6 in information systems and big data analytics with a minor in marketing, however my school does not allow retaking of courses and hence its hard to do courses as well reputed as HKUST’s in Hong Kong. I was wondering, what are the chances of students coming from Asia to the US to study MBA. Could I send a further detailed description?

      • Vijay

        Thanks for your reply, John. I was thinking of taking a first cut of compiling that info for one of the 3 scenarios (at 150 K) over the weekend for 10 universities but actually found the work done by Forbes, in this link.
        From that data, say, for Wharton, with 125K AGI, with one kid attending the college, the EFC is $26.6 k approx. Sticker price for Wharton per year is $70 K. So, given Wharton is need-blind, meaning Wharton provides the difference of sticker price and EFC through their own grants ($43.4 k), the actual cost per year for this scenario is $26.6 K, which is 38% of sticker price. That is what I was referring to, in my comment. $26.6 k is the price that matters to this to this family, not the sticker price. For a comparison, the cost for attending a public University, say Univ., of Wisconsin, Madison is ~ $23 K per year (EFC is higher so, has no affect on the cost for this University). which is just 10 % cheaper than Wharton, in this case.
        Of course, for second kid in the college, that price would come down to $ 13.3 k per kid. There is another variation. Some of the private colleges, even though they are need-blind, they limit that up to only a certain income level, thus limiting the maximum grant the university will provide. I believe New York University fits this bill. They are need-blind but up to 100k income, limiting the grants to around $17 k. In this case, if this kid chooses to go to NYU, his cost would be: Sticker price – max grants from Univ., = $62k – 17 k = $45 k, which is way more expensive than Wharton, for this family.
        Information like this, I think would be more meaningful for the families, than the sticker price. Let me know your thoughts.