man thinking


This question has been on my mind for some time:

Should No-Pay MBA have a different name?

Here’s the thing: No-Pay MBA is not and has never been truly “no-pay.” When I started this project, my goal was to find out if it was possible to get a complete business education, equivalent to an MBA, using free online courses.

When the name “No-Pay MBA” occurred to me, it just felt right.


But I never expected my education not to cost anything at all.


Even at the very beginning, back when MOOC platforms weren’t charging for certificates, I knew there would be some expenses associated with my courses. Things like setting up a website (not free), buying books and other course materials (not expensive, but not free), and securing a high-speed internet connection in Central Africa (definitely not free!). Throughout my studies, I have paid for course content, career coaching, and many other non-free things, all of which have been vital to my education.

Given everything I’ve spent money on, No-Pay MBA has never been a 100% accurate name for the project I have undertaken. That was okay when this was just a blog site. However, when I launched a business in July of this year, the name “No-Pay MBA” started to seem like a potential source of confusion. Indeed, I’ve fielded more than one inquiry to the effect of, “If this is the No-Pay MBA, why do you charge?” (I answer that in the FAQs, by the way.)


Even a No-Pay MBA requires a budget

“No-Pay” is by no means an ideological stance on my part. Quite the opposite, to make an honest attempt at getting an MBA-level education, I think it is absolutely critical to have some sort of budget. I typically recommend $1000 US as a bare minimum. The audience I am seeking to reach is primarily made up of people who have seriously considered traditional MBA programs but have decided that the price is just too high. One-thousand dollars is a pittance compared to what many in that audience have contemplated spending on a business education, especially if they live in the US. It’s not “no-pay,” but when compared to the price of a traditional MBA it feels pretty close to it. For that amount of money you can get access to the course content you need, a few certificates to adorn your portfolio, and even be part of No-Pay MBA’s network of business students.

If you have more than $1000 to put towards your education, you can consider all kinds of enriching experiences - such as conferences, travel, in-person professional training, and coaching. But I understand that for many people, even $1000 is a serious sum, which is another reason I have begun to question whether “No-Pay MBA” makes sense as a name.


It’s all about return on investment

For me, it’s not about how much you spend; it’s about the return on investment. Before I started my No-Pay MBA, I had the feeling that an investment of $150,000 - $200,000 wouldn’t make sense for me. After taking a few finance courses, I was able to explain in precise terms why that was true. And it’s all about return. Given the work I am interested in doing, a business education that expensive wouldn’t provide a good enough return.

Business school - even the most expensive program - can be a great investment, IF you plan to get a job that a) requires an MBA, and b) pays well enough to offset the cost of the education. If one or both of those isn’t true for you, a traditional MBA may not be your answer. But a lower-cost business education might still be a great investment, even if it isn’t free. As someone who works in international development, that was certainly the case for me.

If you need a business education to advance in your career, I want to help you make the best decision on how to get that education. I want you to understand all the options that are out there, many of which have only come into existence in the past few years. None of the good options are totally free, though many of them are quite affordable. That kind of nuance isn’t captured in the name “No-Pay MBA.”


So I’m putting it out to my readers.

Should No-Pay MBA’s name be changed?


I would be sad to change our name. I have built a reputation and some brand equity with this name. Also, I just really like No-Pay MBA. It’s catchy, and it rhymes. Low-Pay MBA rhymes too, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring. Real Life MBA is already taken. $1000 MBA is too literal. High-Return, Low Cost MBA Equivalent is as well.

But I want to hear from YOU.

Do you think No-Pay MBA would be better served with a different name?

A name that makes it clear not to expect the education I’m promoting to be truly and totally free?

If so, what should that name be?

I want to hear your ideas.

You can share them here.


Are you interested in starting a No-Pay MBA?

Enter your email to get the first chapter of my book "Don't Pay For Your MBA"