Paying for an EMBA program can be a daunting prospect, sometimes requiring creative solutions. One of our students describes his solution, entering into a financing partnership with his company to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. These negotiations can be sensitive, with employers not necessarily wanting to set a public precedent, so for today’s entry, we’ve maintained our student’s anonymity.
What led you to consider an Executive MBA program?
I started my professional life as a scientist. As my career progressed, I found myself in positions that were increasingly business facing. It became clear that getting an MBA would be the best way to grow my capabilities. The focused nature of the Berkeley-Haas EMBA and the caliber of the students really appealed to me.
How did the cost of tuition factor into your decision to apply? What funding options did you consider?
This is a big investment; it’s not something you do on a whim. The EMBA tuition at any top program casts a financial shadow over your life. You need to figure out financing early on.
Self-funding came to mind first—savings accounts and cashing in my company stock options—but I have children who will be applying to college soon, and I didn’t want to limit their options. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my employer and I would have to be all in if I were to succeed in the program. After all, you’re asking for a substantial amount of time away from the job. Certainly, we both would benefit in the long run, though, so why not share the financing as well?
How did you approach getting employer sponsorship for your EMBA?
Very carefully and thoughtfully. A key opportunity lies in clarifying the value that your professional development can mean for your company.
Because the cost of an EMBA is an order of magnitude greater than a typical tuition reimbursement program, you need to make a strong business case and present it to the key decision makers in your organization: your manager certainly, and probably directly to relevant senior C-suite executives. Ideally, these will also include one or more individuals who will write a reference letter for your admission. In my situation, I was able to deliver a strong signal that the EMBA experience would align my career with the path that my company is on and demonstrate how gaining a formal business education would allow me to bring additional value to the company.
In the end, my employer and I shared the cost. That gave all of us skin in the game—an excellent motivator for both sides. You want your company to be genuinely interested in what your EMBA experience teaches you and to provide opportunities for you to put classroom learning into real-world practice.
What advice would you give to people about financing an EMBA?
Look at all the financing options, including scholarships. Applying for an EMBA scholarship at Berkeley-Haas is as simple as writing another essay on your application. It’s worth the effort; consider the value per extra hour of essay writing time.
In the bigger picture, once you’ve decided to do this, don’t let the cost deter you; there are more ways to solve the funding challenge than you might think. The experience has more than paid off in terms of the people I’ve met, the network I’ve acquired, the experience and knowledge I’ve gained, and the insights and tools I was able to put to use on the job, right from the very first study block.
Looking back on the program, I’ve been able to complete my studies without depleting my children’s college funds, and know that they will have the chance to attend their dream colleges, just as I’ve done at Berkeley-Haas.