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Stanford price hike is the exception, not rule

Published on Friday, 01 Feb 2013
Linda Yeung

Stanford University has set a world record for the most expensive MBA programme in the world. Its cost of US$185,054, a 10.9 per cent increase from two years ago, prices it above other top-tier institutions such as Harvard and Columbia.

As the birthplace of the MBA qualification, the US has the most years of experience in shaping business education. The wide cultural mix of its student population is another attractive factor for potential applicants. The price of Stanford’s MBA is not beyond the reach of interested executives, given that the median annual income of a fresh MBA graduate from the university is reportedly US$185,000.

Despite the cost increase, those after an MBA need not be too worried. Stanford’s could be an exceptional, visionary move to pour more money into its renowned programme, for example by bringing in more coaches to provide more diverse study sessions. According to reports, the fee includes two years of tuition, all books and supplies, mandatory medical insurance, moderate accommodation, and a US$4,000 global study trip. Take away the accommodation expenses, and considering the fact that generous scholarships are common with full-time programmes, and the financial burden may be less than expected.

More importantly, the chances are that tuition fees will not rise much in the near future, simply because of limited demand. Some schools are known to have seen a drop in applications as a result of the sluggish global economy.

In addition to the economy, one insider in the education sector expects fees to go up more slowly than people assume because of the rising number of short-term training options. A corporate giant, for example, can easily send its managers on a two-week, tailor-made course at a university. These days, recruiting students into MBA programmes is tough, the insider says. Stiff competition for ubiquitous part-time programmes helps keep costs within a certain range.

The uncertain global economic situation has also had an effect on enrolment. Normally when the economy is bad, more people go back to school and enrol on programmes such as full-time MBAs. But this is not what some institutions in this region have seen recently – their intake has actually dropped. Maybe more people would rather keep their jobs and study part time, or adopt a wait-and-see attitude, instead of plunging into full-time study.

Large price increases have yet to catch on. The part-time MBA jointly offered by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and the Hong Kong Management Association is set for a standard five per cent increase in tuition, bringing the fee to HK$280,000. This compares favourably to the $470,000 cost of studying the full-time MGSM programme in Australia. The fee for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s full time programme, meanwhile, remains at HK$545,000.

Linda Yeung is the Post’s education editor, a veteran journalist who studied in Hong Kong and abroad.

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