Students Who Self Fund Their MBA Degrees

For the first time in five years, the percentage of students who fully fund their Executive MBA (EMBA) education has declined slightly, according to results from the 2014 Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) Membership Program Survey.

Why is this small change worth noting?

It represents a reverse – albeit a small one – in an important number for those business leaders who are applying to Executive MBA (EMBA) Programs.

The percentage of self-funded students decreased from 41.2 percent in 2013 to 39.8 percent in 2014. Partial sponsorship also increased from 34.7 percent in 2013 to 35.6 percent in 2014, with full sponsorship also increasing from 24 percent in 2013 to 24.6 percent in 2014.

“While this is encouraging, it’s too early to tell if it becomes a trend,” says Michael Desiderio, EMBAC executive director.

“What we do know is that even with organizations changing their tuition reimbursement and more responsibility for financing the degree falling on students, business leaders continue to see the value of the EMBA experience.”

In the early days of EMBA Programs, tuition reimbursement looked very different with full tuition reimbursement the norm. According to 1987-88 EMBAC statistics, 70 percent of students in member programs received full sponsorship and only 10 percent received none. By 2005, only 35 percent received full sponsorship and 32 percent were self-funded.

This year, the consistent pattern of more students fully financing their EMBA Program was broken.

“It’s hard to know whether this data reflects a leveling of a long-standing trend or whether it is a small shift for the time being,” says Desiderio. “We do know, one way or the other, students are finding ways to finance their time in programs, even during times when organizations are less likely to fully fund many educational opportunities.”

One of those ways involves more schools offering scholarships and fellowships to EMBA students. According to the survey, 53 percent of programs provided financial support to students through scholarships and fellowships. In addition, students are able to tap other types of financing support. Financing Your EMBA includes more information about financing options.

“Because it is a different world for reimbursement of educational opportunities, it is more complicated for some students to finance their education,” says Desiderio. “The good news is that there are a variety of ways to support their educational investment.”

EMBAC sponsors its Membership Program Survey each year to help track industry developments. In 2014, 285 member programs throughout the world – or 92 percent – participated in the survey. For more information about the 2014 survey results, visit