Our guest on January 31, 2001, was Michele Rogers, assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management (No. 2 on BusinessWeek's 2000 Top 30 B-Schools list). Rogers began her career in academia as an admissions officer at Harvard Business School, where she also earned an MBA. She moved on to Northwestern's Kellogg School to spearhead the school's Master's of Management in Manufacturing (MMM) program. She also directed admissions for Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. Rogers was interviewed by Lucia Quartararo for BusinessWeek Online. Following are edited excerpts of their discussion:
Q: Kellogg tuition isn't cheap. Full-time students are asked to budget about $65,000 for each year that they're in school and to expect a 5% to 7% tuition hike annually. Out of the 1,200 full-time students who attend Kellogg every year [1,300 attend Kellogg part-time], about how many look to financial aid to cover their costs?
A: About 70% of the 1,200 full-time MBA students receive financial aid. Of that group, about 50% receive corporate-sponsored or institutional grants. Most scholarships are based primarily on merit, while Kellogg's grants are based on both need and merit.
Q: How much grant funding is available at Kellogg?
A: We have $2.75 million in institutional grants and over 65 scholarships from corporations or individuals. Student need is determined by subtracting the [applicant's] expected contribution from the total cost of education. Our philosophy is to spread our funds around to as many students as possible. Grants are offered on a sliding scale, based on need and merit, and we adjust the individual amounts to provide funds for [students who] qualify. Fifty percent of a given class receives institutional grant money, with the average award at $6,500.
Q: Kellogg is among a couple of B-schools that offer annual scholarships. Tell us about the Austin Scholars program.
A: Austin Scholars are those students that we believe bring as much to Kellogg as Kellogg will provide for them. Twenty students in each class receive this $30,000 award. The Austin Scholarships are based on merit only.
Q: Of course, Kellogg isn't the only source of funding. How does your office suggest prospective MBAs go about finding ways to finance their education?
A: Many of our students receive sponsorships from their companies or countries in exchange for two to four years of service upon completion of the program. Others have family or organizational loans or support.
Finally, it's easy to get on the Internet to do your for research. FinAid! is a good place to start. There are services available that will do the search for you, but most require that you pay a percentage of what you receive or an up-front fee. Be cautious about choosing [a service] that requires payment, because you CAN do your own search.
Q: Is funding specifically earmarked for underrepresented minorities or female students?
A: There are grants specifically for underrepresented students and a combination of need- and merit-based awards. There are also a few companies -- CitiGroup, Chase-Manhattan, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Kraft, Marakon, Motorola, Quaker Oats, and Salomon Brothers -- that sponsor minority funding. We also partner with the Toigo Foundation to offer fellowships to students interested in finance.
Q: Compared to their domestic peers who can receive federal funding, how does Kellogg's international constituency (31% of the student body in 2000-01) fare in the financial-aid process?
A: Through Northwestern University, we offer the Kellogg Student Loan Program, which is designed to help all Kellogg students meet their financial needs as determined by the financial-aid office, without regard to citizenship. Any student, international or domestic, is eligible for an education loan through this program. Kellogg [also] has a limited number of grants designated for international students.
Q: Do prospective MBAs have to apply for financial aid along with their regular application for admission?
A: No. The admissions and financial-aid processes are separate. [Applicants] are asked to note their interest in applying for financial aid in our application. Upon admission, [financial-aid] information is mailed, and [it's also] accessible on our Web site for admitted students. The financial-aid office begins the process for calculating [a student's] need based on materials requested. For instance, for the Kellogg Student Loan, applicants complete a brief application and provide a copy of their income-tax return or another form of income statement.
We also recommend that [all prospective students] complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA] as soon as possible. It's usually available in January, and we recommend that [applicants] send it to all the schools to which they are applying. Upon admission, we can quickly activate [an applicant's] financial-aid file: The process moves much faster if the FAFSA has already been completed.
Q: Few Kellogg students use work-study or assistantship programs to defray the cost of an MBA degree. Why is that?
A: We do not utilize students to teach current [MBA] students, except in very rare and specific cases. Typically, we do not have [assistantship] or work-study opportunities. However, a few of our students work with professors in the university. This is more likely during the student's second year, because first-years have less time and faculty members usually prefer a student that has familiarity with his or her field of interest.
Q: The average age of Kellogg students in the 2000-01 academic year was 28. How many Kellogg MBAs are married?
A: Students with partners [comprise] about a third of our population.
Q: Is there a network established to help students' partners or spouses find employment in the area?
A: It is relatively easy for spouses to find employment. People take advantage of the employment opportunities at Northwestern and at Kellogg, but [they can also find help with their job search] through the spouse organization, Joint Ventures. There are positions [on campus] that are passed on to incoming partners. In addition, we are right next door to Chicago, a large metropolitan area that [provides] lots of employment and volunteer opportunities. Chicago is a city that has every conceivable industry represented.
Q: Once incoming students are in the middle of the financial-aid process, how accessible is your office?
A: In addition to phone and e-mail, our staff has open office hours every day. And most of the information is on our Web site. Mass e-mail updates and reminders are sent to accepted students, but we also respond to all individual inquiries.
Q: What are some common pitfalls that should be avoided when securing funding for an MBA?
A: The two most common pitfalls: students begin the MBA program with too much consumer debt and they have so many competing interests that they delay reviewing and submitting financial-aid materials.
We encourage potential candidates to retire consumer debt [i.e. credit cards, car loans] prior to entering the MBA program. This will greatly enhance their academic experience at Kellogg or any other MBA program.
Q: When should prospective MBAs start planning for their education?
A: Potential applicants should begin financial preparations at least two years before applying to school -- much earlier if they have significant consumer debt.