5 Common Misconceptions about Paying for Your MBA

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July 20, 2017

America's student debt is now well over $1.4 trillion, and MBAs know this all too well. Taking on the expense of business school can be stressful, especially because MBAs carry some of the highest student loan balances: graduates from top business schools can walk away with six figures.

On the other hand, MBAs also have some of the lowest debt-to-income ratios. That's good news for B-school students but it doesn't mean a worry-free degree. If you're an MBA student staring down debt it may feel a little hopeless, but we're here to clear the air about some common repayment misconceptions.

1. You'll pay high interest rates

As overall interest rates in the U.S. increase, borrowing money for your MBA will be more expensive. Today, federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are hovering at 6%, while Direct Plus Loans are at 7%, plus a 4.75% origination fee. After you max out your Stafford loans, scholarships and grants, borrowing from a private lender may be more affordable than you think. CommonBond's rate for a 10 year MBA loan starts at 5.11%.

2. Deferment or forbearance are not available for private loans

Compared to federal loans, private loans may seem limited when it comes to helping grads struggling in repayment, but that's changing. Many private lenders offer some form of deferment or forbearance (CommonBond offers 32 months of deferment and 24 months of forbearance). There's also a grace period of about six months that most lenders provide students with right after graduation, to give new grads a chance to get their financial bearings.

3. You'll be in debt forever

We've all heard horror stories of graduates carrying debt for decades. They're common, but it doesn't have to be that way for everyone. We also come across success stories every day from grads going to great lengths to pay off their student loans. In most cases, it's less about barebones budgeting and more about side hustles and smart living.

Our own CMO Phil DeGisi shared his story of paying off more than $150K in student loans in about five years. When Phil left b-school, he didn't have a high-paying job or even the option to refinance his high interest rate loans. Still, by prioritizing debt, making extra payments and living modestly even as his income grew, Phil was able to unload his student loans in an impressive amount of time.  "It's just an interesting time to be someone coming out of business school with student debt compared to when I graduated," he says. "People have a set of options that didn't exist before."

4. Loan forgiveness or assistance doesn't exist for MBAs

You might think an MBA's high earning potential places them outside the sphere of loan forgiveness, but that's not true. Any grad with federal loans who chooses to work for a qualifying public service organization and meets program qualifications can apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Beyond that, many top programs including Duke, Columbia, Stanford and UC Berkeley offer a similar form of loan forgiveness for grads dedicated to making a positive impact in the social sector.

Don't forget employers are also starting to offer student loan repayment benefits as a perk, where they actively help you pay off your student loans each month, so if you're on the job market check out these companies as part of your search.

5. Your loans will delay other life decisions

It's easy to feel like you need to press pause on some of life's biggest moments when you have student loans to take care of. Buying a home, investing, getting married, having children or even traveling can feel like they're just out of reach when you're juggling multiple loan payments. Refinancing is a great option for tackling your loans while freeing up cash to put toward other major goals. You can combine loans to a single payment while lowering your overall interest rate and saving money in the long run.

Myths aside, one fact remains true: getting an MBA is an investment of time, money and energy that can change your life. Setting the right perspective, doing the research and taking smart actions around your student loans can be the difference between living beneath a burden of debt and becoming a student loan champ.

Want more tips for MBA students? Check out CommonBond's MBA Summer Series, six weekly events in CommonBond's NYC HQ that help b-school students find their post-MBA career path. The 2017 MBA Summer Series runs through August 3.

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