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MBA Cost of Attendance (CoA)

Katie Schenk - December 20, 2018

Prodigy Finance looks at MBA Cost of Attendance (CoA)

When you’re looking at university study - any university study - there’s a lot more to the price than just tuition. Although Cost of Attendance is important for every student, it’s critical for international students.

The ability to secure a study visa is directly linked to your ability to pay for your time in the host country. 

Immigration officials work on the CoA figures provided by universities, not your own budget of expenses; even if you can comfortably survive on half a meal a day, you must still prove your ability to pay for the three meals that your university expects you to have.

Cost of Attendance (CoA) sums all expenses associated with your education. That’s tuition, required fees, books and study materials, rent, food, transportation, and, often, much more than that.

In the United States, any university that receives federal financial aid funds is required to post their annual Cost of Attendance clearly, so finding this information online is usually a painless process. 

It’s a different story in Europe where it’s difficult to track down estimates, even for a few prominent schools. 

How do schools calculate the Cost of Attendance?

The obligation American schools have to post CoA, doesn’t mean they use a standardised calculation.

They don’t.

Tuition is the only universal line item across different schools, as a quick look at a couple of published CoA tables will tell you.

Columbia Business School¹


Mandatory fees

Health insurance

Books & supplies

Room & board

Personal expenses









NYU Stern School of Business³


Registration fees

Room & board

Books & supplies

Local travel


Loan fees










*Includes student health insurance costs

Harvard Business School²


Student health fee

Health insurance

Materials and fees

Room & utilities

Board, personal, other









Stanford GSB


Living allowance

Books & supplies

Materials and fees


Medical insurance

Health fee










The figures above are all for the first academic year of two-year MBA programmes (for single students staying in basic accommodation). 

And, yes, those are the figures for an academic year, which is nine months and applies to most schools. (Stanford GSB has a ten-month academic year.)

What you do for the other couple of months is a little tricky to deal with - especially if you’re participating in an internship in another city (and need to pay rent in two places) or you’re taking a couple extra classes to boost your academic record.

You may also be struck by the high figures for health insurance for these schools - and that NYU Stern includes these costs under the heading “miscellaneous”. 

You may also be curious as to why the Cost of Attendance at NYU Stern is roughly the same as the CoA for Columbia - even though they’re both situated in New York City, and the Columbia tuition fees are higher than NYU Stern’s fees. It all boils down to the extras each school provides.

The Cost of Attendance is often worked out differently in Europe. Oxford’s Saïd Business School provides a breakdown similar to the American calculations⁵ (though we already know there are differences on that front).

But, you’ll find programmes like IESE⁶ and ESADE⁷ (both in Barcelona) provide tuition and then a monthly estimate for living expenses. Tuition covers the entire 18 or 19 months of study, but you’ll need to work on a figure of €2100 per month as an estimate to work out the CoA you’ll need to prove to immigration authorities.

And, over at London Business School⁸, the school doesn’t explicitly provide living expenses on their main website, but they have surveyed students in the past to determine general costs⁹. The average, by the way, is £2395 per month.

Programme (Location)


Monthly estimate   x months



London Business School (London, UK)


£2395 x 18



Oxford Saïd Business School (Oxford, UK)


flat rate



IESE Business School (Barcelona, Spain)


2100 x 19



ESADE Business School (Barcelona, Spain)


2100 x 18



IE Business School (Madrid, Spain) ¹⁰


2100 x 12



Why all the emphasis on Cost of Attendance?

If you’re planning to study in the United States, your university will provide you with an I-20 form once you’ve demonstrated your ability to cover the costs. You won’t get the form until you can show the school you can meet the figures - and you can’t submit your visa application or schedule your interview without this form.

Prodigy Finance also works with the Cost of Attendance provided by schools when offering loans*. 

For some programmes, the maximum loan amount is 80% of the CoA provided by the university. If the CoA for the first year at Columbia Business School is $110,914 - the maximum loan amount that can be extended is $88,731.20.

There are exceptions, however. Prodigy Finance can extend loans to ESADE MBAs equal to 100% of tuition; while others allow for 90% of the CoA.

At the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business as well as at Stanford’s GSB (two of the priciest MBA educations), Prodigy Finance can extend loans up to 90% of the CoA provided by the school.

*Each Prodigy Finance loan is, of course, determined by multiple factors - and it’s important to read through all terms and conditions before applying for any loan.

What does Cost of Attendance mean for your budget?

A quick look at the Cost of Attendance figures provided by the school, or, in the case of European schools, worked out according to average monthly spend should tell you a few things.

Primarily, living expenses in different cities will radically change your budget - as will the length of your MBA programme.

If you consider the CoA at Oxford Saïd (provided by the school) versus the CoA for LBS (which is partially a guess based on the spending habits of students), you’ll find a staggering difference in price. Partially, it’s due to the high cost of living in London, and partially because Oxford’s MBA programme is 12 months and not 18 as you’ll find at LBS.

The difference in tuition between IESE and ESADE business schools accounts for the price differences between these Barcelona programmes.

Over in the US, it’s easy to see how area affects budget. It’s more expensive to live in New York or California, Chicago or Boston. Head to schools like the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and you’ll pay lower tuition fees, and your living expenses drop as well.

Programme (Location)




X 2 years

Columbia Business School (New York, NY)





NYU Stern School of Business (New York, NY)





Harvard Business School (Boston, MA)





Yale School of Management (New Haven, CT) ¹¹





Wharton Business School (Philadelphia, PA)¹²





Chicago Booth School of Business (Chicago, IL) ¹³





Michigan Ross School of Business (Ann Arbor, MI)¹⁴





Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford, CA)





How accurate is the Cost of Attendance provided by schools?

Okay, tuition, mandatory fees, and often health insurance figures are pretty solid. (Though you do need to factor for increases and ensure your health insurance covers a 12-month period, not just an academic year.) And, if campus housing is available, you can work out many of the major costs with some accuracy.

But, you’ll need to make some serious choices when it comes to your budget for eating out (almost essential for bonding with your classmates), participating in clubs (which are often pathways to a job offer), and the type of transportation you’ll use (just remember how cold Chicago or New York can be). 

As such, the Cost of Attendance provided by schools in the United States isn’t necessarily more accurate than the estimated living expenses given for schools in Barcelona.

And, missing from all of this are the costs of academic excursions and flights to interviews. Most costs ignore living expenses during internship periods - and you don’t necessarily know where you’ll be for those few months. It could be in Cape Town or Los Angeles - and the cost of living in these cities is vastly different.

While a solid Cost of Attendance is critical for obtaining your international study visa, it’s only helpful when it comes to your MBA budget

No matter what the school provides, you'll still need to crunch the numbers and work out your own living expenses. 


Cost of Attendance isn’t your budget.

Luckily, you’ll have spent hours studying for the quants section of the GMAT, so it should feel like an easy task. And, when you’re wondering how you’ll manage the cost of an international education, remember that you have options like Prodigy Finance (which considers your budget as well as the school's CoA). 

Already figured out your budget and the CoA for your MBA?

It's time to secure the financing you need to pursue your MBA. Prodigy Finance offers loans for international students pursuing their masters at top universities.

¹ gsb.columbia.edu/programs/mba/financial-aid/tuition-costs

² hbs.edu/mba/financial-aid/tuition-assistance/Pages/cost-of-attendance.aspx

³ stern.nyu.edu/programs-admissions/full-time-mba/financial-aid/tuition-cost-attendance

⁴ gsb.stanford.edu/programs/mba/financial-aid/cost-summary

⁵ sbs.ox.ac.uk/programmes/degrees/mba/fees-funding

⁶ http://mba.iese.edu/admissions-fees/living-expenses

⁷ esade.edu/en/programmes/mba/full-time-mba/fees-financing

⁸ london.edu/programmes/masters-courses/mba/fees-financing-and-scholarships

⁹ files.clickdimensions.com/londonedu-amoz7/files/cost_of_living.pdf

¹⁰ ie.edu/financial-aid/master-students/loans/cost-of-living-in-spain

¹¹ bulletin.printer.yale.edu/htmlfiles/som/tuition-and-fees.html

¹² mba.wharton.upenn.edu/tuition-financial-aid

¹³ chicagobooth.edu/programs/full-time/admissions/tuition-financial-aid

¹⁴ michiganross.umich.edu/programs/full-time-mba/tuition-financial-aid

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