Financing an MBA in the U.S.

International students coming to the U.S. have resourcesonline and offto help them find financial aid for business school

Perhaps you attended university in Australia, New Zealand, or Britain and seek a different career and educational experience among Yanks? Or maybe your education in India or China piqued your interest in obtaining an MBA in the U.S.?

Regardless of your motives as a globe-trotting, full-time business student, you have to get here somehow, and that journey can be expensive—anywhere from $20,000 to $47,000 a year for tuition alone. But worry not, traveling student. A few key financial aid Web sites and resources are like markers on a treasure map for those who wish to head to the U.S. for B-school.

Financial aid is often complicated, and for international students in the U.S., it can be even more trying. Besides a lack of federally designated aid, many international loans for students studying in the U.S. require permanent resident or U.S. citizen co-signers. Adding yet another hurdle is the limited availability of scholarships specifically for international students studying in the U.S. Often, international students are added to the same pool as all other entering students, making scholarships incredibly competitive and difficult to obtain.

Online Resources

The No. 1 stop for international students for financial-aid resources is the Web, including the International Education Financial Aid's Web site, which provides grant listings and a database brimming with domestic and international scholarship opportunities.

More important, the Web site links to International Student Loan, a site devoted to giving students who wish to study internationally information on loan providers. These loan monies don't flow freely without a few obstacles, though. The international loan highlighted on the site requires a creditworthy co-signer who must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Additionally, the student must attend a qualifying school from the Web site's list.

As of August, 2007, most of BusinessWeek's top-ranked full-time MBA programs for 2006 were qualifying schools for this loan. However, even if a school is not on the list, it may have its own loan program for international students. For instance, Diane Hunt, assistant director of financial aid for the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, says the B-school has a loan arrangement for international students through Citibank (C). CitiAssist Loan recipients can borrow up to the full cost of attendance, regardless of their credit scores and less the amount of financial aid (scholarships, etc.) received.

Similar to the International Education Financial Aid site is the Institute of International Education's Funding for U.S. Study Online. The site provides a large, free, searchable database of grants, scholarships, and other awards for international students studying in the U.S.

EduPASS, a site for prospective international students, is chock-full of advice and information on loan providers, including the Global Student Loan Corp., which offers international students loans without need of a co-signer in the U.S. Students may need co-signers from their home countries, however. For those not familiar with financial-aid and academic jargon, eduPASS has a comprehensive glossary to help decipher the vocabulary, defining words from "American" to "J-1 Visa."

For a more proactive advising experience, the U.S. State Dept.'s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs has a "global network" called EducationUSA, developed to provide information and guidance to students seeking to study in the U.S. Its detailed Web site provides more than enough advice, even mapping out the step-by-step actions international students should take to apply for aid, from speaking with advisers in their home countries to seeking work-study employment in the U.S.

Offline Resources

Although databases provide a wealth of information for prospective international B-school students, certain language barriers and a lack of interpersonal communication can make merely searching the Web for financial aid time-consuming and confusing.

If a school's scholarship terms or financial-aid requirements are unclear, call the financial-aid office directly to inquire. Advisers at Michigan, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business all note that universities often reward qualified international students the same way they reward high-achieving domestic students—with scholarships.

For instance, at Chicago, international students can qualify for target-based awards aimed at students from developing or emerging economies, says Director of Admissions Rosemaria Martinelli. Opportunities and awards like this are worth checking into, even if they are extremely competitive; often, scholarship applicants who do not receive one scholarship will be entered into the pool for a different one.

EducationUSA also lists educational advising centers in most countries around the world, where international students can go for guidance about the application process and financing higher education in the U.S. The program even offers education fairs in different countries, to provide curious students with more information on studying in the U.S. Recent fairs were held in Toronto, China, Japan, South Korea, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Africa, to name a few.

Whatever your research method for the hunt for financial aid, persistence is key. Keep searching for the best loan and scholarship programs to suit your needs, and use proactivity and organization to lead you to your final destination: a top B-school that provides an ample amount of financial support.

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