To Pay for B-School, More Candidates than Ever Expect Scholarship Aid

Recent survey findings reveal that more than a quarter of 2016 incoming full-time MBA students will receive some level of merit scholarship.

Oct 13, 2016

Prospective Students

Female MBA candidate When making the decision to pursue a graduate business degree, the number one factor that gives candidates pause is cost. About half of registrants surveyed in 2015 (51%) said that a reservation they have about applying to business school is that it requires more money than they have available. To make the cost calculus work, candidates often rely on a mix of funding sources, which typically include personal savings, loans, and parental support, among others. Recent findings from the 2016 Prospective Students Survey reveal that today’s candidates are counting on scholarship aid more than ever before. 

Overall in 2011, candidates from around the world planned to cover 21 percent of the cost of their degree with funds from grants, fellowships, and/or scholarships. In 2015, that figure rose to 26 percent. This trend can be seen across countries: Candidate plans to use scholarship aid in their financing mix rose in the United States (16% in 2011 vs. 20% in 2015), China (15% in 2011 vs. 18% in 2015), and India (20% in 2011 vs. 30% in 2015). 

Merit Aid Most Common Form of Scholarship 

GMAC’s 2016 Application Trends Survey reveals that merit scholarships—financial awards granted on the basis of past academic or professional distinction—are the most widely distributed form of financial assistance offered by schools. In total, nearly 4 in 5 full-time MBA programs (80%) report that they offer merit scholarships to applicants as a means of reducing students’ tuition cost burden. More than a quarter of incoming students to full-time MBA programs (27%) will receive some level of merit scholarship in 2016.

Merit scholarships are offered by a similar share of Master of Data Analytics (78%), Master of Finance (75%), Master of Accounting (67%), and Master in Management (70%) programs. Nearly a third of incoming Master of Accounting students in 2016 will receive a merit scholarship (31%); slightly smaller shares of incoming students to Master in Data Analytics (23%), Master of Finance (19%), and Master in Management (16%) programs will receive merit aid. 

Other Forms of Aid 

Smaller shares of graduate business programs offer other forms of tuition assistance. Thirty-two percent of full-time MBA programs offered assistantship funding in 2016, which typically requires recipients to assist faculty with duties related to teaching. In total, five percent of incoming full-time two-year MBA candidates will receive assistantship funding. Similar shares of Master of Finance (5%) and Master of Accounting (4%) students will receive assistantships.

More than a quarter of full-time two-year MBA programs (29%) offered fellowships in 2016. This form of funding often comes from a specific individual, corporate, or foundation donor, and can be based on a variety of criteria, such as academic or professional excellence and personal background, among others. Six percent of incoming full-time two-year MBA students will receive fellowship funding in 2016, as well as four percent of incoming Master in Management students. Need-based scholarships—offered on the basis of demonstrated financial need of the student—are available from 28 percent of full-time MBA programs, 15 percent of Master of Accounting programs, and 22 percent of Master in Management programs. Eleven percent of incoming Master in Management students and four percent of full-time two-year MBA students will receive need-based aid in 2016.

For more about tuition assistance—as well as trends in application volumes, recruitment and outreach strategies, and employer funding—download the 2016 Application Trends Survey Report at