What Top Schools Are Now Charging For Their Executive MBA Programs

The Executive MBA program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School is now the most expensive in the world

The Executive MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has a new and questionable distinction: The program has now displaced the Wharton School’s EMBA as the most expensive MBA program in the world. For the class entering this September, students will pay $213,564 for the degree, a 2.6% increase over the year-earlier pricetag.

By increasing tuition by nearly $12,500 in the past two years, Kellogg surpassed the longstanding top-priced Executive MBA at Wharton. which now costs $210,900. Wharton’s program, moreover, is two months longer than Kellogg’s 22-month-long offering. The latest increase at Kellogg follows a 3.5% jump in tuition the previous year. The cost of the Kellogg and Wharton programs are more than double the average global price of an Executive MBA program which is about $80,000, according to the Executive MBA Council.

No less crucial, 18 years ago, Kellogg charged a mere $39,800 for its Executive MBA experience when Wharton’s rival program cost $61,500. Back then, there were at least seven other EMBA programs that cost more than Kellogg which has since pushed tuition up more than fivefold. The staggering increases have occurred during a time when corporate sponsorship of employees in these programs has been waning, forcing more students to reach deep inside their own pockets to pay for the education.

What An Executive MBA Costs: The Ten Most Expensive Programs

School Program Total Tuition % Increase Year-Earlier Cost Program Length In Months
Northwestern (Kellogg) Executive MBA $213,564 2.6% $208,152 22
Pennsylvania (Wharton) MBA Program For Executives $210,900 2.8% $205,200 24
Columbia Business School Executive MBA NY $208,680 3.3% $202,080 20
Cornell (Johnson) Executive MBA Metro NY $195,498 7.0% $182,798 22
NYU (Stern) Executive MBA: NYC $194,876 3.0% $189,200 22
Chicago (Booth) Executive MBA $194,000 2.6% $189,000 21
Berkeley (Haas) MBA For Executives $194,000 4.9% $185,000 19
Yale SOM MBA For Executives $187,500 4.3% $179,800 22
NYU/LSE/HEC Paris Trium Global EMBA $181,500 2.0% $178,000 17
MIT (Sloan) Executive MBA Program $178,302* 5.5% $169,000 20

Notes: *MIT Sloan’s cost does not include hotel accommodations which are an estimated $20,000

CORNELL JOHNSON POSTED THE HIGHEST YEAR-OVER-YEAR PERCENTAGE INCREASE

Even so, there was yet another school with a year-over-year percentage increase on its EMBA that even outdid Kellogg. Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management hiked the price of its program by 7.0%, more than three times the 1.9% rate of inflation, to $195,498, from $182,708 a year earlier. In fact, the prices on every one of the ten most expensive EMBAs outpaced the inflation rate. Cornell’s outsized rise could be attributed to the university’s decision to move its EMBA program to the new Cornell Tech campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island this year (see Cornell Moves Its Metro EMBA To NYC’s Roosevelt Island).

There are three Executive MBA programs now above the $200K mark. Besides Kellogg and Wharton, Columbia Business School’s trio of EMBA options in New York all cost $208,680, a 3.3% jump from the year-earlier price of $202,080.

While tuition at Kellogg and many other schools cover the cost of accommodations, textbooks, and most meals, students must typically still pay for international travel to and from the global immersions and electives. And if Kellogg students sign up for more than one global elective, they’ll also have to cover the bill for textbooks and most meals, accommodations, and travel, pushing the total cost still higher.

COSTS OFTEN HIGH DUE TO STAYS IN UPSCALE HOTELS & GOURMET MEALS

Why are these programs so expensive? At Wharton, the costs include room and board for all required class days at either the Steinberg Conference Center or Inn at Penn in Philadelphia or the Le Meriden Hotel in San Francisco. It also includes gourmet meals, student fees, most course materials, and a “land package” for a global business week. Similarly, Kellogg’s tuition includes all meals and housing for domestic courses on its Evanston and Miami campuses (Kellogg has an EMBA in Miami as well as its home base). A spokesperson for the school points out that the price also covers such things as lifetime auditing of both core and elective courses, lifetime career coaching, graduation fees and lodging for graduation weekend, and a 30% discount on Kellogg executive education offerings.

The high price, moreover, hasn’t deterred many from attending. “Our students and alumni have been exceptionally satisfied with their experience in Kellogg’s Executive MBA program,” says Greg Hanifee, associate dean of the EMBA Global Network at Kellogg. “Program satisfaction scores are at record-high levels, and our global EMBA program has seen enrollment growth of 43% between 2014 and 2019.”

Hanifee says that students especially praise the program’s immersive global experience and the breadth of choice it offers in global electives. “Since 2013, we’ve grown our electives from 9 options to 22 sets of options, including in San Francisco, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Israel, Canada, India, and Portugal,” he adds. “Tuition includes the hotel and meals for one global elective that a student chooses – and if they choose multiple global electives, tuition covers the most expensive one. Today, 100% of our students pursue at least one global elective, up from 68% in 2013.”

AT WHARTON, YOU CAN PUT YOUR TUITION BILL ON A CREDIT CARD

Kellogg also has expanded its career services offerings between 2016 and 2019, adding additional career coaches and launching a new partnership with BlueSteps, an executive search firm that fills senior-level and C-suite roles. “Since 2018, we’ve offered a Personal Leadership Insights course for EMBA students, based on our top-rated, self-reflective MBA course that focuses on each student’s personal leadership journey in a small-group format,” says Hanifee.

Worried about paying out more than $200K in one big lump? Wharton expects students to make six equal installments at the beginning of each term over the two years. The school accepts plastic: American Express, Discover, or MasterCard credit cards for payment.

It could strike some as offensive that Wharton lists as one of the items covered in the cost a “case study room for you and your study team.” Airfare to get to the program or to the global week is not included. Neither are the registration charge and travel costs for the elective global modular courses that are offered during holiday breaks are not included.

THE MOST AFFORDABLE QUALITY OPTION: BRIGHAM YOUNG’S $46,310 EMBA PROGRAM

Another reason for the sticker shock is the fact that Executive MBA programs often are taught by a school’s star professors and boast dedicated career coaches and career development staffers. The high costs also reflect brand power. Schools with big brands are able to get better pricing than others. More often than not, the cost of an EMBA goes up with a school’s reputation and ranking.

There are plenty of Executive MBA programs that cost less than half of what Wharton, Columbia or Kellogg charge, but they are typically at schools that lack the drawing power of those world-class business schools. One of the least expensive, quality options costs only $47,600, up from a year-earlier $46,310, at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business. BYU’s 24-month EMBA program was recently ranked an impressive 28th in the world by The Economist and the total cost covers tuition, books and fees, two residency weeks, Saturday lunches, and a two-week-long foreign business excursion.

The program fee even covers transportation, hotel accommodations, and breakfast during the global excursion–but not hotel stays for the alternating Friday and Saturday class sessions. One reason it is so affordable? A good chunk of the program’s operating costs is paid with the tithes of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though anyone can attend the program and it is not religious in nature.

69% OF EMBA GRADS FIND THEIR PROGRAMS TO BE FINANCIALLY REWARDING

As high as the costs are for these programs, it’s not unusual for there to be some “hidden” costs. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, for example, the price tag of $178,302 does not include what the school estimates to be about $20,000 in hotel charges. At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, students have to tack on to the $148,000 for its global EMBA program an additional $4,000 for a concentration or an extra $6,000 if they want a health sector management certificate. Duke, by the way, kept the tuition on this program stable this year with no increase.

Are these expensive business degrees worth it? Graduates of EMBA program appear highly satisfied with their experience. The highest net promoter score—a metric used to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty—of any graduate business program is from Executive MBA alumni. EMBA programs boast a net promoter score of 59, higher than full-time MBA programs at 52 or weeknight programs at 48, according to a 2018 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council of 1,102 EMBA alums.

The study found that 96% of EMBA grads believed their program was personally rewarding, while 89% said the experience was professionally rewarding. When it came to ROI, however, just 68% said the program they attended was financially rewarding. That compared to 79% of full-time MBA grads.

DON’T MISS: RANKING THE TOP 50 EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.