How to Pay for Your Healthcare MBA

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The upfront cost of a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management may seem overwhelming, but this powerful credential elevates careers. There are manifold opportunities for healthcare MBA program graduates in areas such as the health and medical research industry, which is among the highest-growing in the U.S. economy.

Healthcare MBA candidates learn a range of skills relevant in careers in and out of healthcare delivery and administration, including analytical problem-solving, communication, decision-making, strategic thinking and strategic management. Consequently, graduates of these programs are some of the highest earners in the healthcare field and have excellent job prospects. Studying healthcare management online or on campus qualifies clinical providers and researchers to move into well-paid administrative roles and business professionals to bring their skills to healthcare organizations.

So while the investment healthcare management MBA program candidates make is substantial, the payoff is considerable. For example, the online MBA in Healthcare Management offered by Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management connects students with a vast network of driven alumni and expert faculty who are industry leaders. Graduates exit the program with a respected credential, valuable professional connections and the leadership skills to drive change in the healthcare industry.

Fortunately, there are many ways to pay for an on-campus or online MBA in healthcare to help ambitious professionals reduce the cost of a healthcare management degree or defer costs until the investment begins paying off.

How much do online MBA in healthcare programs cost?

Healthcare MBA costs vary from university to university, but online programs typically cost about the same as comparable on-campus programs at the same institution. For example, the online MBA in Healthcare Management from Case Western Reserve University costs $1,561 per credit for the 2022-2023 academic year. That's $74,928 in total tuition for the 48-credit program. Students in any graduate degree program should also factor in the cost of non-tuition expenses, such as application fees, books and course materials, and technology sufficient to interact with online learning systems.

Can choosing a part-time, online degree program reduce costs?

While enrolling in an online graduate program is seldom less expensive, studying part-time can make paying for an MBA easier. That's because the total cost of higher education includes opportunity costs—one of which is the salary a student would forfeit by leaving their job to pursue a degree. Students in flexible part-time MBA programs online do not have to sacrifice income or opportunities for career advancement while enrolled. They also can reduce their immediate expenditures by taking fewer courses per semester and avoid the most common incidental costs of pursuing higher education, including commuting and relocation expenses.

Ways to pay for an online MBA in healthcare program

Employer tuition assistance

Many employers have tuition assistance or reimbursement policies for employees who meet certain conditions. Participation in tuition assistance is often limited to employees enrolled in degree programs related to their current roles or programs that support a specific career trajectory. At some companies, promising employees are encouraged to apply to MBA programs that will prepare them to excel in higher-level management and executive roles. The online healthcare MBA curriculum at Case Western Reserve University teaches valuable administrative and leadership skills related to business management, financial management and operations management.

Employer assistance for tuition, fees and other education-related expenses is tax-free for employers and employees up to $5,250. Above that figure, tuition assistance must meet federal guidelines surrounding qualifying work-related education to remain nontaxable. Regardless of how much assistance employers offer, many require that employees who receive it continue working for the organization for a set period after earning a degree—or they risk having to pay back some or all of the distributed funds.

Federal student loans

Many people are unaware that graduate students can tap into federal student loan programs to pay for their degrees. MBA candidates can borrow up to $20,500 in direct unsubsidized loans per academic year. If that isn't enough to pay for an MBA, they can borrow additional direct PLUS loans to cover the remaining costs. Federal student loans are available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who take at least six credit hours per semester. Applying is simple: Graduate students submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for federal student loans and other financial aid, just like bachelor's degree students.

Federal student loans are an excellent funding option for several reasons. Applying for direct unsubsidized loans does not involve a credit check. Federal loans also tend to have the most affordable repayment plans. A 10-year plan with regular repayments is standard, but students who cannot make the standard payments can opt for income-driven repayment plans or even defer repayment until they can afford it.

Scholarships

Many scholarship programs are open to graduate students in general and MBA candidates in particular. Full-ride scholarships are out there, but most students bundle multiple smaller scholarships to pay for their degrees. Fastweb, Sallie Mae Scholarship Search and similar resources find and organize undergraduate and graduate school scholarships in easy-to-use databases.

MBA students are typically eligible for two types of scholarships. Internal scholarships are university-, business school- or program-specific and are awarded by schools. Case Western Reserve University, for example, offers scholarships to top candidates for its online MBA in Healthcare Management program. Contact an enrollment advisor at onlinemba@case.edu to learn more about eligibility. External scholarships are awarded by nonprofit organizations, endowments and companies. MBA scholarships are often earmarked for students who fit a specific academic, personal or professional profile. Many external scholarships are awarded based on factors such as GPA, work experience and student identity.

Private loans

Lenders such as banks and other financial institutions issue private loans that help MBA students pay for their degrees. However, unlike most federal student loans, private loan eligibility is usually based on creditworthiness. An applicant's credit score will determine how much they can borrow, the loan's interest rate and the repayment terms. Most private loans do not offer flexibility when it comes to repayment, and these loans tend to have much higher interest rates than federal loans. In general, students should look at private loans as a last-resort option for paying for an MBA.

Paying out-of-pocket

It is relatively unusual for business school students to self-fund their MBAs, though some high-earning professionals with strong budgeting skills do just that. Most MBA students pay for their degrees using multiple methods, including paying for some graduate school expenses out of pocket.

Other ways to pay for an online MBA

Some less common ways to pay for an MBA are circumstance-dependent. Veterans who meet eligibility requirements can tap into their GI Bill benefits, which cover full or partial tuition and fees for 48 months of any qualifying university program, including Case Western Reserve University's online MBA program.

MBA seekers who have had time to build up their retirement savings can apply that money to their education. Typically, withdrawing early from an IRA or a 401k comes with a 10% tax penalty. However, borrowers avoid the penalty if they show that the money is going toward graduate education at an eligible institution (most accredited institutions are eligible).

Frequently asked questions about graduate financial aid

Can I get loans for a master's degree if I am still paying off undergraduate student debt?

Yes, as long as you did not borrow past the lifetime limit when funding your bachelor's degree. There is a $138,500 aggregate loan limit for graduate and professional students on all direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans throughout a student's academic career. There is no annual or aggregate limit on direct PLUS loans or private loans for students.

When should I apply for student loans, grants and scholarships to fund my business education?

Submit your FAFSA to apply for MBA scholarships as early as possible. You can submit the FAFSA for the next academic year as early as Oct. 1. After that, the deadline for priority consideration is Fe. 15. Scholarship deadlines vary, but it's wise to submit applications as early as possible. Some scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis, so early applicants are more likely to receive funds or may receive larger awards.

Should I fill out the FAFSA even if I don't plan on taking out loans?

Yes. The FAFSA takes less than an hour to fill out and is not just for students funding their degrees with student loans. The purpose of the FAFSA is to determine whether you qualify for various types of financial aid—including forms of assistance you will not have to pay back, such as grants and even some internal scholarships. Additionally, some private scholarships require applicants to fill out the FAFSA as part of the application process, which means you could sacrifice scholarship eligibility by not filling it out.

What if I do not qualify for graduate financial aid?

It's rare not to qualify for any financial aid, so your next step is to have a discussion with a representative of the university's financial aid office. If it turns out you are not eligible for any federal student loans or scholarships, you can still pay for your MBA using a mix of out-of-pocket payments, private loans and retirement account withdrawals.

How should I approach my employer to ask about MBA funding?

Tuition assistance is the best way to pay for your online healthcare MBA. Schedule a meeting with HR and be prepared to ask the following questions:

  • Is there an official tuition reimbursement policy? How do I know if I qualify?
  • Are benefits available to all full-time employees or only full-time employees who have been at the company for a certain amount of time?
  • Am I still eligible if the healthcare MBA program is not directly related to my current job?
  • Do I need to stay at the company a certain amount of time after graduation? What happens if I don't?
  • How do I apply to the tuition reimbursement program? Do I need approval from my manager?

The right online MBA in healthcare program will pay for itself

Do not be intimidated by the sticker price of the healthcare MBA. The classic MBA has one of the highest investment returns of any graduate degree, and the MBA in Healthcare Management opens doors in the most lucrative areas of non-clinical medicine and medical research. While ROI varies based on a program's student support, networking opportunities and curriculum, choosing one of the best online MBA programs ensures your investment will pay off more quickly.

The online healthcare MBA offered by Weatherhead School of Management is a high-touch, hands-on program developed by faculty members at the forefront of innovation and leadership in healthcare management. MBA candidates at Weatherhead School of Management benefit from access to a network of the best hospitals and healthcare organizations in the nation and the larger community of healthcare organizations in the region. Graduates emerge ready to become healthcare executives and leaders in an industry that is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down.

The career-boosting benefits of a truly excellent healthcare MBA program cannot be overstated, which means cost should not be the most important consideration. Many MBA programs with a healthcare management specialization offer only a handful of elective courses in healthcare management. In contrast, Case Western Reserve's online MBA program has an entire healthcare core, making up approximately 40% of the curriculum. Students take core courses focusing on real-world administrative challenges in healthcare environments. Courses teach advanced concepts related to healthcare finance, cutting-edge information systems, healthcare decision-making, lean operations in healthcare settings and more. Students benefit from the expertise provided by the Weatherhead network, including Cleveland-based healthcare institutions such as Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth Systems and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

Additionally, distance learners receive Weatherhead School's robust student support services. Online MBA candidates work with success coaches who provide academic, personal, social and career guidance. Students can also use the Weatherhead School of Management Career Services center, which provides networking opportunities and career-focused events and workshops, and tap into an extensive alumni network of healthcare professionals and administrators at notable healthcare systems.

Ultimately, pursuing a credential that leads to career opportunities in an evolving and expanding field is a smart move—even if it means finding creative ways to fund an MBA. "We've got an aging population that has more demand for healthcare services," asserts Weatherhead Senior Associate Dean of Academics and Graduate Programs Gregory Jonas. "Also—and this is less frequently noted but it's important—technology is changing the management and delivery of healthcare... There's so much innovation, which adds to the demand for services. It also creates a need for more people to manage healthcare."

If you have additional questions about how to pay for an online MBA, email Case Western Reserve University's financial aid office at financialaid@case.edu or call 216.368.4530.

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