The World’s Big Ticket Executive MBA Degrees

First class accommodations and gourmet meals are part of the deal at Kellogg School of Management's Executive MBA program in Miami

First class accommodations and gourmet meals are part of the deal at Kellogg School of Management’s Executive MBA program in Miami

It’s no secret that Executive MBA degrees, accelerated programs for more seasoned professionals to earn an MBA, are the most expensive business degrees. But a new analysis by Poets&Quants confirms that EMBA degrees are pricier than ever.

The MBA program with the highest price tag on the planet? The Executive MBA programs in Evanston, Ill., and Miami, Fla., from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The current listed cost for the latest MBA cohort joining Kellogg this month is $187,290. That price doesn’t include an expected 3% to 5% increase that will likely occur this spring for cohorts that enter the program in September of this year or January of 2017 when the price tag will rise to over $191,000.

To get to that lofty spot, Kellogg has increased the cost of its EMBA program by 22% in the past five years, when the cumulative rate of inflation was just 8.8%. That’s an increase of $33,390, from $153,900 in early 2011. Even so, on a percentage basis, a few other schools have actually boosted their prices further. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business hiked the price of its EMBA by 26%, or three times the rate of inflation. That rise lifted the cost of Booth’s Executive MBA by $37,000, to $179,000 now, versus $142,000 just five years ago.


Kellogg just narrowly edged out Wharton to claim the most expensive MBA in the world. Wharton’s EMBA program at both its home campus in Philadelphia and its satellite campus in San Francisco now costs $186,900, just a shade below Kellogg’s price tag. In the past five years, Wharton has kept increases in the cost of its West Coast program slightly under inflation at 8.5%, while it has increased the cost of its East Coast program by 15%. Otherwise, Wharton would have maintained its claim to the world’s most expensive MBA program.

What’s surprising is that the prices for the degree have gone up that much at a time when fewer companies are footing the bill for the education and a host of lower cost, online alternatives have emerged from degree programs to MOOCs (massive open online courses). Some schools, including Wharton, are now bundling a series of four MOOC courses into specializations with capstone courses for as little as $595.

For years, it was rare for a business school to offer a scholarship to an EMBA program. That is a more common phenomenon today with more schools open to discounting. Kellogg, for example, says it offers “limited scholarships” to accepted EMBA candidates, including a 30% reduction to a student in each cohort from the non-profit sector, a $12,500 scholarship to an entrepreneur, and a $10,000 grant to a student working in the energy industry.


Why are Executive MBA programs so expensive? A spokesperson for Kellogg explains that tuition covers everything from classes and textbooks to accommodations, meals, and career services. Generally, this means first class treatment for executives. Kellogg, for example, says that its tuition covers “three gourmet meals a day, unlimited snacks, coffee breaks and more,” along with “first-class suites in the James L. Allen Center (Evanston campus) or Hyatt Regency Coral Gables (Miami campus).” These programs often include one if not more global excursions, expensive propositions for the schools. They often are taught by a school’s star professors and boast dedicated career coaches and career development staffers, a relatively new development for many programs.

Another reason for the sticker shock is simple 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. The 20-month Executive MBA at St. Joseph’s University’s Haub School of Business in Philadelphia is just $74,950, more than $100,000 less than the Wharton offering. But Wharton is widely perceived to be one of the very best Executive MBA programs in the world, often ranked first or second, with the highest quality students, faculty, and alumni network.

In most cases, the full-in cost is inclusive of every amenity one can think of. But like airlines that charge for bags and pillows, some business schools now lowball the tuition pricetag and then tack on costs. Duke University’s Global Executive MBA is a good example. If you want the “managed laptop pre-configurated for the program, it will cost you $1,550 more than the $166,000 cost of tuition. Want to take an elective course? That’s $2,000 a pop. How about a concentration in one of five topics? That’s anotHER $8,000 for two elective courses. And if you want to get the school’s Health Sector Management Certificate, which includes a half dozen courses, is a hefty $12,000 add-on charge.

(See following page for EMBA programs costing more than $100,000 at prestige schools)

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