Develop a comprehensive strategy for obtaining a green MBA without racking up a boat load of debt. Learn how to identify and win scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, and other types of aid.
by Tracey de Morsella, the Green Economy Post
In this distressed economic climate, with many professionals facing difficulty when it comes to finding rewarding employment, an increasing number see pursuing a career in sustainability as the solution to their employment woes. There has been a dramatic sea change that is taking place within government and businesses in their approach to sustainability. The MBA has long been seen as a game changer when it comes to shaking up one’s career, so it’s no surprise that people are taking a serious look at the green MBA . Increasingly, prospective students are no longer asking if they should get a green MBA, but instead, how they will pay for it.
A green MBA can cost a small fortune with amounts ranging from $89,590 to attend University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Green MBA to the other extreme of $3,609 to attend San Francisco Institute of Architecture MBA in Sustainability Distance Learning Program. Examples of programs charging somewhere in the middle include Presidio Graduate School ($47,880) or, or Green Mountain College ($25,900)
Many professionals opt not to pursue getting a green MBA, because they are put off by the high cost, and they fear of taking out high interest loans during this period of economic upheaval. But what most people do not realize is that loans are not the only realistic solution. With proper planning and research, you can find many alternative ways to finance your MBA.
While there are federal grants for undergraduates, there are no broad category grants available for MBA students from the federal government. Financial aid is available, but funding for MBA students is extremely limited and the grants and scholarships that are available tend to be small in size compared to the costs. However, there are still number of options available. Along with paying out if pocket, there are five additional approaches you can take to pay for your green MBA. They are as follows:
1. Gift Aid – This includes scholarships, grants, fellowship, awards and contests and tuition waivers awarded by individual business schools
2. Assistantships – Including teaching assistantships, resident assistantships, and research assistantships
3. Company employee educational benefits
4. Loans – This includes Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan, Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, Federal Direct Loan, Private loan programs, and Tuition payment plans
5. Tax Incentives
Over the next few weeks, we will explore each of these options in greater detail, providing you with strategies for pursuing them. To reduce the amount of debt you will have to incur in order to obtain your green MBA you will have to be willing to do a great deal of research and apply for every scholarship, award, competition, grant and fellowship that you can identify. If done right, you could come out with a green MBA without any debt at all or substantially less debt than you would have otherwise incurred. To succeed in this you have to approach the pursuit of aid like you would a serious job search.
Hopefully, instead of paying for the entire thing with loans, you will have the knowledge and resources that will enable you to obtain you green MBA with some combination of aid & loans, or maybe without incurring any debt at all. While I am primarily addressing issues of concern for those people thinking of going back to school full-time to obtain their green MBA, most of the strategies mentioned here apply to those thinking about attending part-time or online, as well.
Calculate the Costs to Attend
After you have narrowed down the selection of green MBA programs that you are interested in attending, figure out how much your total costs will be to attend each program. This will help you gain an understanding of how much money you need to survive on while you are in school; what the obligations are going to be in terms of rent, utilities, etc. and an understanding how you spend your money. It will also position you to better manage your debt while you are attending a green MBA program and have a dramatically reduced access to funds.
Make sure you include the costs you will incur beyond tuition. This would include a computer, books, and other supplies. If you are leaving your area to attend school, do not forget to check into how the cost of living in the school’s area compares to where you currently reside. Most business schools can tell you what the average cost of living will be in the area and may offer subsidized housing or provide a housing office to help you find a place to live. Before making any decisions, you should figure out how much you’ll actually need to live and pay for each of the programs and scan to see what costs you can trim.
Use the total expenses to go to business school that you have calculated to realistically determined the personal resources you can make available from current income and savings (if you have any in these distressing times). Then compare the totals for each program to help you determine if you can actually enroll.
Five Ways You Can Start Cutting Your Costs Before You Attend
Before you start looking at your financial aid options, there are a number of additional steps you should take. Start cutting your costs as soon as you decide you want to go back to school so you can get in the habit of sticking to this reduced budget. This will help prepare you for going without a salary, if you are thinking about going full-time. It could also help position you to have some sort of savings for emergencies.
- Get a copy of your credit report and start working now to correct any errors, so that you can get the best rates possible when applying for loans.
- Get your debt to a manageable level before taking on a student loan. If you can, pay off your car and any credit cards you have so you don’t fall into the trap of racking up bad credit-card debt while in school.
- Because you will not be employed, you should avoid incurring any additional major expenses and begin paying down existing consumer dept. This means nixing any plans for a new car, luxury vacation, house, etc. Do not be tempted into having one last splurge before changing your lifestyle.
- If you cannot pay off any outstanding undergraduate loans you might have, make arrangements to defer them.
- If you can manage it, try to return to living like a student—maybe even getting roommate so you can significantly reduce your costs.
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Five Ways You Can Get Organized for the Coming Onslaught of Admissions and Financial Aid Activity
- Prevent yourself from missing out on admissions, fellowship, grant, scholarship, internship and loan deadlines by creating a system for tracking all the information you are going to collect and the deadlines that you will have to meet. Do this by keeping a detailed calendar and stick with the schedule.
- Make note of any advice, contacts or resources that the people you meet provide you with and file it away for later use. Do not count on your memory alone.
- Keep financial aid folders for each of the schools to which you applied. You should also keep folders on the additional aid resources that you uncover, including loans, scholarships, fellowships, etc. While it is probably easier to organize these materials on your computer, it is likely that you will not receive all of the information online.
- Do a draft version of your income tax return with estimated numbers, to meet early aid application deadlines.
- Use worksheets in financial aid guidebooks to calculate what the colleges will estimate you can afford to pay, before you apply.
Fill Out the Appropriate Financial Aid Forms
Don’t wait to be accepted to a school to apply for aid, often the money is available on a first come, first served basis. So, it is important to get your application forms in as soon as possible. Assume you’re eligible for financial aid and fill out the appropriate financial aid forms. Don’t rule yourself out because of income or academics and don’t rule out a college because you think it’s too expensive. Read below to see which form(s) you should fill out.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – To qualify for federal aid, every student is required to complete the FAFSA, either in paper or electronic form. The paper form is available at most business school financial aid offices. Once you have submitted the proper application, the business schools you have designated will receive information showing the amount you can afford to contribute to your education, calculated based on your income and assets. This is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC from the federal form is the official amount that determines whether you will qualify for certain types of federal aid.
If this amount is less than the total cost of attendance, you have demonstrated need and will qualify for aid—usually low-cost, government-subsidized loans. In most instances, you will get a quick response from the schools you designated on funding options available to you. Then you can work directly with a financial aid office to secure your loans and potentially other forms of aid.
College Board Financial Aid PROFILE – Some business schools require that you complete an additional application called the Financial Aid PROFILE form from the College Board.
GI Bill Veteran’s Application for Benefits – If you are a veteran, some green MBA programs offer scholarships that you may be eligible for and they may require that you fill out the GI Bill veteran’s application for benefits form in order to apply for them.
Working with Financial Aid Offices
Even before you apply, you can get information about the financial aid services available at each school that interests you. Take advantage of the availability of this information from financial aid offices by seeking out their help. Some of the graduate business school even have their own financial aid offices separate from the main university financial aid office to address MBA students specific issues.
The best way to find scholarship money is to get the contact information from the schools that have accepted you. Financial aid offices know where the money is and will be glad to direct you to the resources that are available. You just have to ask and follow through.
Today, I laid down the groundwork designed to help you put together a comprehensive strategy for obtaining the aid you need to attend a green MBA program. On Monday, I will explain how to find scholarships, fellowship, assistantships and paid internships and develop a strategy for applying and winning them. I will also provide you with a list of scholarships and a list of scholarship directories that will help you jump start your search.
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