EssaySnark got a little triggered. Back in April, we wrote this whole post ripping HBS a new one, because we stumbled into this — from the overview of the HBS financial report published in October 2018 by Havard Business School’s CFO:
MBA tuition is budgeted to increase a modest 2 percent in fiscal 2019—the smallest amount in many decades—reflecting the School’s focus on slowing the pace of growth in the cost of MBA education. Revenue from MBA tuition and fees is projected to rise 1 percent, year over year, reflecting normal fluctuations in actual class size. Financial aid spending—MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education student fellowships—is expected to increase 6 percent.
Gosh, they seem awfully proud of themselves! “A modest 2 percent”!!! WOW! Pat your smart self on the back, buddy!
You do realize that inflation has been historically low in the U.S. for ages now. Over the past two-ish years, it’s gone between like 1.5% and near 3% — so a 2% inflation is just sort of normal for what’s going on in the economy overall right now.
Of course, saying you’re going to keep MBA tuition at only 2% does sound radical! When it’s been going up more than double that almost Every. Single. Year. for decades.
A generation ago, EssaySnark used to be of the mind that the MBA was worth it, the ROI was there, anyone complaining about the cost of tuition was just a complainer.
Not so much anymore.
Dang, this sh!t’s expensive!!! And like DANG!! It really is!!!!!!
We still see the value of the MBA overall, and the whole “transformational experience” thing — we put that in quotes because it’s kind of hyped by the schools, but in all honesty, you will go through some remarkable changes when you’re in these two years. You’re going to come out a completely different person. It’s not just that you’ll be newly minted with three shiny letters after your name, and a whopping new salary to be grateful for. You’re really going to have some life-altering experiences, perhaps experiences that you can’t easily get anywhere else.
But when we look at it another way, it sort of looks like a cult.
There’s a lot of brainwashing that goes on.
You’re going to find your “tribe.”
You’re going to get inculcated into the culture.
You’re going to be steeped in the values and norms and standards of what this new community advocates — which, hopefully, will be net to the positive. (There’s always risk of the heavy drinking culture, and the FOMO culture, and the hyper-competitiveness culture, and the sleeping-around culture, and the slut-shaming culture for anyone who is suspected of sleeping around, and the “I’m just coasting because grades don’t matter anymore” slacker culture, and the who’s sleeping the least/doing the most/killing it the best culture, to all have an effect and do a number on your perception of real reality.)
Basically, you’re signing up to pay $200k for two years of participation in a socially sanctioned cult. You’ll be joining an elite club. You’ll have experiences proscribed by this institution that you are paying to shape you into some new type of human.
That’s a very expensive way to have new experiences.
And yet for some reason, it’s accepted that there would be no caps on what you can be charged for this. The market forces where there are still steady streams of applicants flocking to the doors of school like Harvard means that the administrators aren’t looking for ways to keep costs in check. They apparently feel justified in jacking up tuition fees again even though they’ve done so literally every single year since time began — and even in an era of stock market riches, where their endowments are (or should be!!) incredibly healthy, where they’re getting flush deposits from alumni who are benefiting from the strength in the economy around the world, where there is an abundance of riches at Harvard Business School — except when it comes to being generous with students.
Why not hold tuition flat? How do they get away with raising tuition every year?
Of course, we’d expect a response from HBS to be along the lines of how all students have their financial situations taken into account, and how generous they can be with the packages they put together for their admits, how they offer need-based (and not solely merit-based) add to their admits . Which, notably, is more unusual among top schools, where need is often not considered when they make an offer of scholarship money.
Still with us? Despite the spittle flying from our face as we ranting about all of that?
Well, it was at about that time in constructing this post that we want to examine the data. Our recollection is that yes, the schools — all of them — raise tuition every single year. But we hadn’t updated our fancy-dancy spreadsheet with the numbers from HBS just lately. So we set about doing that, and, um….
Turns out, HBS actually HASN’T raised one-year tuition for the last three years. They were at $72,000 for the 2017-’18 academic year, and then went up to $73,440 for the 2018-’19 academic year, and then from what we can gather, they’ve actually held steady, at least so far as tuition, at that $73,440 figure for the next two years too. And that’s what is posted at now, for the 2019-’20 academic year that starts this Fall.
So hmm. We had this whole rant about HBS and apparently we got it all wrong!
Not that a tuition of $73,440 is by any means cheap. And it’s not like other mandatory fees that they charge students have been staying constant. On the whole, the total cost of the program, and of course living expenses, has been ticking higher at Harvard, as everywhere else. We heard that Booth, too, is keeping tuition the same in 2019 but things like their health insurance fee and other inescapable costs that students have to cover are still going up. It’s fully infuriating to see that tuition was only $46,150 per year for the HBS Class of 2011. From $46k/year for base tuition, to $73k/year, in under ten years! We believe that our fury is justified at that. That is most certainly more than a 2%/year increase.
But apparently HBS, and Booth, aren’t actively gouging students with tuition hikes this year. Neither is the entire system of the University of Virginia (undergrad and all grad programs, including MBA; the board of governors there reversed a planned 2.9% hike after getting significantly more state funding .) Apparently there may be a ceiling, a limit to the insanity, the ever-rising cost of this so-called education. So we’ll let the blood pressure settle back down again, and we’re posting this diatribe anyway, because surely, in the not-so-distant future, HBS is going to be increasing tuition again, and more likely than not, it’ll be out of sync with the inflation rate in the Real World, and all of us are powerless to stop it.
Unless you decide to opt out of the cult. While may be worth considering.