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10 MBA Programs Where Grads Have the Most Debt

Delece Smith-Barrow

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Getting a graduate degree is usually a solid way to elevate a career or move into a new industry. But graduates with an MBA may enter the job market with a level of debt that rivals the six-figure salaries many expect to make.

Among full-time MBA students from the 2013 class at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, for example, those who borrowed for business school had an average indebtedness of $108,186. Students from the Fuqua program had the highest average debt load for full-time students, according to data submitted to U.S. News by 86 ranked institutions.

[Assess five funding options to help pay for an MBA.]

In 2012, graduates from New York University's Stern School of Business who borrowed had, on average, the most debt: $105,782. In a year's time, the average for Stern grads dropped significantly, to $93,832, making it seventh on the list of schools where graduates borrowed the most for their MBA.

Another change between 2012 and 2013 average debt for full-time graduates came from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Among 2012 graduates, the average debt was $88,195 for those who borrowed, placing the Arizona school 10th on the list of 10 schools with the highest debt out of all ranked MBA programs. But for 2013 graduates, the amount of average indebtedness dropped to $84,187, knocking the school off the list.

[Uncover the hidden costs of an MBA education.]

University of San Francisco's Masagung Graduate School of Management and the Graziadio School of Management at Pepperdine University also made this year's list with average debt levels of $93,465 and $89,245, respectively. Among the 10 schools where new alumni who borrowed had the most debt, the average debt was $97,180. Out of all 86 ranked institutions, the average indebtedness was $51,407.

Below is a list of the 10 MBA programs where 2013 full-time graduates who borrowed on average had the most debt from graduate business school. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

Business school (name) (state) Average MBA program indebtness U.S. News b-school rank Percentage of full-time 2013 graduates with debt
Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) $108,186 14 66
University of Virginia (Darden) $102,968 11 62
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) $100,512 5 72
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor (Ross) $97,915 11 60
Cornell University (Johnson) (NY) $97,500 17 N/A
Yale University (CT) $96,341 13 73
New York University (Stern) $93,832 10 N/A
University of San Francisco (Masagung) $93,465 RNP* 61
Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) $91,834 6 66
Pepperdine University (Graziadio) (CA) $89,245 76 43

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

U.S. News surveyed 453 schools for our 2013 survey of business programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Business Schools rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The acceptance and enrollment data above are correct as of Sept. 2, 2014.

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