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  • Malvika Patil

MBA Sponsorships: How to Get Your MBA Paid for by Your Company

A full-time, in-person MBA at a leading (top 20) business school in the US now costs over $200,000 in tuition and living expenses. Go down the rankings, and you’ll find that most MBAs start at a hefty $60,000. But, for many, the benefits of an MBA far outweigh its costs. An MBA opens up access to impressive career opportunities and networks, and graduates can expect a significant salary bump when they reenter the workforce. 

For candidates who want to take their careers to the next level through an MBA but cannot afford the price tag, a good option to finance their MBA is through their employer. A corporate-sponsored MBA can help employees focus on their studies, growing their network, and taking advantage of the program’s resources, without such a financial burden.

For corporates, sponsoring an employee’s MBA degree is a strategic investment. They invest in the employee’s career development, and reap the benefits when the employee returns with new leadership skills, ideas, and an increased competitive advantage over others in the industry. 

How can I apply for an MBA sponsorship?

If you want to apply for a corporate sponsorship for your MBA, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Research: Start by researching your employer’s policies and history of sponsoring employees for an MBA. They may have a sponsorship program, a tuition assistance policy, or tuition reimbursement. Most companies will only sponsor their top performers. They will also have an approved list of business schools that they prefer, so do your homework before you apply.

  • Request: Approach your direct manager or HR team to discuss your future plans.

  • Get approval: You will then have to present a proposal to the decision-makers at your company clearly highlighting the value you will bring to the company and colleagues after your MBA. 

  • Sign the contract: If your company agrees to sponsor your MBA, you will need to sign a sponsorship contract. Most companies require sponsored employees to commit to returning to the company for a predetermined number of years after their MBA. 

What if I don’t want to return to my job?

MBA sponsorships are more likely to take place in good job markets. Companies are incentivized to be generous for top talent and invest in their training and skill development. That’s why most corporate sponsorships come with a caveat: sponsored employees need to commit to a minimum period of return employment post their MBA. This is usually 1-3 years. 

Many sponsoring companies do this on a pro rata basis. For example, if you sign a 2-year post MBA return employment contract with your company and you decide to leave after 1 year, you would have to repay half of your sponsorship amount.

But some MBA candidates choose not to return to their current firms, even after being sponsored. This is often because their career goals change during the MBA, and they want to pivot to a different role, industry, or geography. If you choose to switch companies after your MBA, your new company may “buy you out”. 

One of our clients was sponsored by a non-FAANG tech company for his MBA and planned to rejoin the company after graduation. However, his career goals changed during his MBA and he switched to a FAANG tech company which reimbursed the cost of his MBA amount instead. But this may not always be the case; the client’s sponsorship came through when the tech industry was recruiting aggressively. In a tough job market with mass layoffs, companies may be less keen to sponsor employees.

Which companies sponsor MBAs?

Here are some top global companies that sponsor MBAs:

MBA Sponsorships:

1. Disney: Disney offers full and part time hourly employees tuition support for in-network schools through the Disney Aspire program. 

2. IBM: IBM covers the full cost of the MBA if it is relevant to the employee’s current role, with the condition that the employee must stay with the company for 2 years post their MBA.

3. Capital One: The Capital One Graduate Degree Sponsorship Program offers handpicked employees with funding assistance, with the condition that the employee must stay with the company for 2 years post their MBA.

Tuition Assistance:

4. AT&T: AT&T provides tuition reimbursement of up to $8,000 annually for employees, who can choose from a wide range of business schools to pursue their MBA.

5. Target: Dream to Be is Target’s debt-free tuition assistance program, offering up to $10,000 annually for business programs at over 40 schools in the US. 

6. Boeing: The Learning Together program at Boeing offers $25,000 in annual funding for employees applying to graduate programs, with the condition that the employee must stay with the company for 2 years post their MBA.

7. Intel: Intel offers up to $50,000 in tuition assistance for employees applying to graduate programs. 

Tuition Reimbursement

8. Apple: Apple reimburses tuition expenses of up to $5,000 annually for employees.

9. Bank of America: BoA provides tuition reimbursement of up to $7,500 (or $5,250 tax-free) annually and university discounts for employees for whom the MBA is relevant to their current role.

10. Deloitte: Deloitte offers full tuition reimbursement through their Graduate School Assistance Program for employees, with the condition that the employee must stay with the company for 2 years post their MBA.

Does a sponsorship cover the full MBA tuition fee?

While some companies offer full tuition coverage, most provide partial financial support or have a cap on total funds disbursed. 

Sponsored students can apply for student loans to cover the rest of their tuition and living expenses. However, in most cases, students cannot use the loan to buy out a sponsorship. 

Additionally, most business schools, like Harvard Business School, will not offer scholarships to students who are sponsored. Other schools like INSEAD will consider scholarships for partially sponsored students to cover the remaining tuition amount. 

How do business schools view sponsored applicants?

In our experience, sponsorship is viewed positively by business schools. Jon Cheng, ex-Admissions Reader at Berkeley Haas and SWC senior consultant, says that sponsored applicants definitely get a leg up in the admissions process.

Here’s why business schools consider sponsorships as a distinguishing factor in MBA applications:

  • Company endorsement: Companies sponsor high performing employees whom they want to invest in. This is almost like a powerful recommendation letter from the company, indicating that the company sees the employee as high-potential and wants to retain them. They also have guaranteed job security as they will return to their employer post their MBA. 

  • Added value to the MBA classroom: Business schools know that sponsored applicants are high performers, and thus are assured that they will contribute meaningfully to the classroom. Given that sponsored candidates come from a range of industries and backgrounds, they will also add to the diversity of the classroom. In many cases, they do not need to devote as much time to recruiting activities as other MBA students, which gives them more time to engage with the school’s community. 

  • Corporate networks: Sponsored applicants will usually have a strong network within their organizations and be well connected to senior executives and leadership. They can be excellent points of contact to create partnerships between their firm and the business school for internships, recruiting, and mentorship.

  • Financial security: In addition to job security, sponsored applicants also have financial security. This allows the school to use their scholarship resources to attract other candidates. 

Are you a sponsored applicant applying for MBAs? We’ll help you get admitted to your target business school! Book a free chat with one of our expert consultants today.


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