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Student Loans

Best MBA Student Loans

If you can’t secure enough funding through other avenues, such as scholarships, grants, fellowships, or sponsorships, you may consider using student loans to pay for business school.

Taking out a loan can make earning a Master of Business Administration more affordable, but it’s important to weigh the options. Learn where to find MBA student loans and which factors to consider when choosing a lender to work with. 

Best MBA student loans

The two main types of student loans are federal and private. Both have benefits and drawbacks, and prospective MBA students should compare them before applying.

Loan/LenderRates (APR)Max loan amount
Unsubsidized Loan*7.05%$20,500 per year
Grad PLUS Loan*8.05%Total cost of attendance
College Ave4.07% – 14.49%$150,000
Earnest4.11%15.97%Total cost of attendance
Ascent5.09%15.81%$400,000
Sallie Mae4.99% – 16.47%Total cost of attendance
*Federal student loan. Rates for private student loans will depend on your credit score, credit history, and income.

Federal MBA student loans

The Department of Education administers the federal student loan program for eligible borrowers. We recommend prioritizing federal student loans to finance an MBA for the following reasons. 

  • Low, fixed interest rates
  • Enhanced borrower protections, such as student loan forgiveness, long deferment periods, and forgiveness in the case of borrower death
  • Flexible repayment options, including income-based repayment

You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal student loans. The FAFSA is a prerequisite to getting many other types of aid, including grants, scholarships, and work-study.

After completing the FAFSA, MBA students can take out Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS Loans. Grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates than Direct Unsubsidized Loans, so some borrowers will turn to a private student loan instead of a Grad PLUS loan if they can qualify for a lower rate. Compare rates before deciding which option is best.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan

The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to graduate and professional degree students regardless of financial need.

This loan has a six-month grace period before repayment begins. Depending on the repayment plan you choose, repayment may take 10 to 25 years. Students can request several types of deferment and forbearance programs if they can’t make payments.  

Grad PLUS Loan

The Grad PLUS Loan is available to graduate and professional degree students. Unlike the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, borrowers must pass a credit check to qualify for this kind of loan. If they don’t, they need to add an endorser, which is similar to a cosigner.

A six-month grace period applies after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Borrowers can choose from a variety of repayment plans ranging from 10 to 25 years.

The rate on the Grad PLUS Loan is higher than the rate for Direct Unsubsidized Loans. If you have good credit or a creditworthy cosigner, you may be eligible for a lower rate with a private lender.

Best private MBA student loans

Private loans for college can provide the additional funds necessary to obtain your degree. Eligibility and rates for private MBA student loans can vary based on credit score, income, whether you have an eligible cosigner, and the loan repayment term.

The LendEDU team has reviewed the companies below, which are our picks for the best MBA student loans.

College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Get up to 100% of school-certified costs of attendance covered
  • Your choice between 16 different repayment schedules
  • Get a credit decision in just 3 minutes

College Ave is an online lender that offers a customizable MBA loan for business school students. Borrowers can choose from fixed or variable-rate loans with repayment terms of five, eight, 10, or 15 years. You can borrow up to 100% of the cost of your MBA degree.

Cosigners are not required for College Ave MBA loans, but applying with one could make it easier to get approved. Cosigner release is available once you’ve completed half of your loan repayment term. Your cosigner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. 

To qualify, you’ll need to attend an eligible school and be enrolled in an accredited MBA program. You can make payments while in school or defer them. College Ave offers a nine-month grace period after graduating, which is longer than the six months many other lenders offer. 


Earnest – Best for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Skip a payment once per year, if needed
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Earnest is an online lender offering student loans for undergraduate and graduate school, including business school. You can choose from a fixed- or variable-rate loan with repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. Only full-time MBA students are eligible for these loans. 

Cosigners are optional, but Earnest does not offer cosigner release. You’d need to refinance into a new student loan to remove a cosigner. Earnest offers MBA student loans in every state except Nevada. 

In addition to deferred payment options and a nine-month grace period, Earnest offers a skip-a-payment benefit. You can skip a payment once per year with no fees. The skipped payment is treated as forbearance, and interest may be capitalized, meaning it’s added to your unpaid principal balance. 


Ascent – Best for eligibility

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • 1% cash reward when you graduate
  • No early repayment fee
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Ascent is an online student lender offering a specific graduate student loan for business school students. The Ascent MBA student loan offers a choice of fixed or variable rates. Depending on whether they meet the eligibility requirements, borrowers can apply for this loan with or without a cosigner. 

Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to apply without a cosigner. However, international students or DACA students will need a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Cosigner release is available after making 12 consecutive, on-time payments. 

Ascent allows for in-school payments or deferred repayment with a nine-month grace period. You can choose from repayment terms of seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. Eligible borrowers may earn a 1% cash-back reward once they graduate.


Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Cosigner release after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments
  • Defer payments for up to 48 months during internship
  • Available for students enrolled less than half-time

Sallie Mae offers a wide variety of student loans, including MBA loans. Borrowers can have up to 100% of their costs covered, including tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. Sallie Mae doesn’t impose an aggregate borrowing limit for MBA students, which may appeal to those attending pricier programs. 

Students can qualify for up to 48 months of deferment during an internship after graduation. This can allow students to take on low-paying positions without worrying about their student loans. Borrowers are also eligible for 12 months of interest-only payments after the grace period is over, which adds even more flexibility.

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to apply, or have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Only students earning a full MBA degree are eligible, not those pursuing a business certificate.


How to choose the best MBA student loan

Getting an MBA can help set the stage for a successful career, but you’re also likely to leave school with significant debt. Data shows the average MBA student borrower graduates with $66,000 in student loans. However, your total debt could easily reach six figures if you’re enrolled in a higher-cost program. 

By doing research and comparing your options, you can minimize the total debt you take on for your degree.

Here’s what to keep in mind when applying for MBA student loans:

  1. Maximize federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans first. Federal student loans are the safest option because they have protections private lenders don’t offer and competitive fixed rates.
  2. Choose between the Grad PLUS Loan and a private loan. The Grad PLUS Loan has the same protections as the Unsubsidized Loan but comes with higher interest rates. If you or your cosigner have good or excellent credit and a steady income, you may be eligible for a lower rate with a private lender.
  3. Choose an affordable repayment plan. Whichever path you choose, make sure you’ll be able to afford your payments after you graduate. By doing this, you can minimize the risk of missing a payment down the road.

Our expert’s advice: Federal vs. private loans

Mike Menninger

CFP®

The main reason to take a federal loan is possible forgiveness. If you’re concerned about forgiveness due to death, compare the cost of term life insurance to the savings on the loan. If you work for a nonprofit services firm that may allow forgiveness, that could factor in as well.  Payment terms could also lead one to use federal loans because of lower loan payment amounts due to longer payback periods.

How to apply for MBA student loans

If you know you’ll need student loans to pay for business school, applying is the next step. Here’s what to expect as you seek funding for an MBA program. 

  1. Estimate your loan needs. If you’re unsure of your total cost of attendance, contact your school’s financial aid office to see if it can provide you with numbers. Knowing how much you may need to borrow can help you decide whether to apply for federal student loans, private loans, or both. 
  2. Complete the FAFSA. The Department of Education has streamlined the FAFSA to make it easier for borrowers to complete. You’ll need to enter information about yourself, your finances, and the MBA schools where you’re applying. You can add up to 20 schools initially, but you can add more if you’re unsure where you plan to enroll. 
  3. Review your financial aid eligibility. Once you complete the FAFSA, the schools listed on your application will notify you of the types of aid you qualify for. That can include Direct Unsubsidized Loans and school-based aid.
  4. Apply for Grad PLUS Loans if necessary. If your aid award won’t cover the full cost of attendance, you can submit a separate application for PLUS Loans. You’ll need to tell the Department of Education how much you want to borrow and which school you’re attending. You’ll also need to give consent to a credit check.
  5. Compare private MBA loans. If you need private student loans to pay for the remaining costs of an MBA degree, shop around. Request rate quotes or preapproval from at least three private lenders that offer MBA loans to see what terms you might qualify for. 
  6. Apply for a private loan. If you’ve chosen a lender, you can apply for private MBA loans online. You’ll need to share personal and financial details, as well as information about your MBA program and loan needs. You (and your cosigner if you have one) will likely need to consent to a credit check; most private lenders require it. 

It may be helpful to check your credit before applying for Grad PLUS Loans or private student loans. Knowing what’s on your credit history can give you an idea of which loans you’re most likely to qualify for. It’s also an opportunity to correct any credit reporting errors that may be hurting your score. 

MBA student loan FAQ

Which MBA student loan is the best?

The best type of MBA student loan depends on what you can qualify for. Federal loans offer more repayment options and extra benefits, including longer deferment periods. But if you can afford to pay off the loan quickly, a private loan with a lower interest rate may be better.

Do I need a cosigner for MBA student loans?

If you’re taking out federal student loans, you will not need a cosigner in most cases. However, if you’re considering Grad PLUS loans, a negative event on your credit history may require you to add an endorser, which is similar to a cosigner.

If you’re taking out private student loans, you may need a cosigner unless you have a good credit score and a steady source of income.

Do MBA student loans cover living expenses?

MBA student loans almost always cover living expenses such as housing, transportation, groceries, and more. Make sure to understand what your loans will cover before you take them out.

How much can I borrow with MBA student loans?

The amount you can borrow with MBA student loans depends on the specific lender, but most let borrowers take out the annual cost of attendance. Some lenders may have an aggregate limit, while others do not.

When does repayment on MBA student loans start?

Repayment on MBA loans begins when the grace period is over. For federal student loan borrowers, the grace period lasts six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below part-time status. The grace period for most private loans is between six and nine months.

Check your official loan documents to see when repayment begins. If you have federal student loans and can’t afford repayment right away, you may be able to defer your loans and delay repayment.

Is it possible to get an MBA student loan as an executive?

Federal and private student loans are available for executives pursuing an MBA degree. You’re not barred from applying for either type of loan simply because you hold an executive position. That could work to your advantage if you’re seeking private loans because stable income may be a requirement to qualify. 

However, you may want to consider other sources of funding before proceeding with MBA student loans. For example, your employer may be willing to offer full or partial sponsorship to help you pay for your degree. Sponsorships allow you to earn an MBA while working, with your employer covering your attendance costs directly or reimbursing you later. 

Recap: Best MBA student loans


Loan/LenderRates (APR)
Unsubsidized Loan*7.05%
Grad PLUS Loan*8.05%
College Ave4.07% – 14.49%
Earnest4.11%15.97%
Ascent5.09%15.81%
Sallie Mae4.99% – 16.47%
*Federal student loan. Rates for private student loans will depend on your credit score, credit history, and income.