My HBS Student Loan Story: John Cortines (MBA 2015) – MBA
Business school is a valuable investment in your future. HBS supports this investment with generous needs-based scholarships. In addition to scholarships, many HBS students use student loans to help cover their share of the shared investment.
If you’re planning on borrowing to help fund your MBA, you’re probably thinking about what the repayment might look like after graduation. HBS graduates pursue careers in a variety of industries and positions across the world. With a median starting salary of $ 148,750 and a median signing bonus of $ 30,000, HBS graduates are well positioned to repay their student loans. Yet incurring student debt to fund an MBA is an important commitment, and we recognize that personal circumstances influence how each student approaches this commitment. To better understand how HBS graduates manage and repay their student debt, we interviewed several alumni about their loan repayment journeys.
Classify: MBA 2015
Could you please share some of your education?
I grew up in an upper middle class home in North Dallas. My father is an engineer and spent time as a pastor. My mother stayed at home with me and my little brother. I went to Texas A&M, where I studied engineering. I married my wife right out of college.
I was working as a petroleum engineer and making a lot of money which I think made the decision to get an MBA more difficult as we already had a path to financial stability. My wife and I had so many conversations about what we wanted to do because we felt like we could be comfortable where we were. We were settling into our life in Louisiana and we had a baby. But we also felt it would be an incredible intellectual journey to go to HBS.
How would you describe your financial situation when entering HBS?
Upon entering the MBA program, I was married with a child which added to the costs. We found that the financial aid office really took that into account, so I received scholarships and it reduced the amount of loans. I ended up borrowing about $ 50,000 in loans.
Did you have anxiety or stress related to debt or how would you pay for HBS? If so, how did you deal with these feelings?
I was confident in my post-MBA earning potential. So for me, all concerns were probably about the decision to switch from oil and gas to a nonprofit. The higher monthly living expenses were also an adjustment for us. Our monthly budget in Boston was significantly higher than it had been in Louisiana, for the same standard of living.
How did you approach your career search? Was it influenced by concerns about loans or debt repayment?
I actually intended to get into oil and gas, but then experienced what I can only describe as a clear call into the nonprofit sector at the end of my sophomore year. In April or May, I made the decision to take on a nonprofit role. Around the same time, I found out that HBS had loan repayment programs. I ended up applying and being accepted at Social Enterprise Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) that I used for 5 years.
What has been your experience with debt repayment?
My wife and I are savers, so we have a strong tendency not to be in debt. We were very focused on paying off our loans and we were on a 7 year variable rate loan. By 2020, my wife and I had finally built a bit of an emergency fund, even as our family had grown. With the economic uncertainty of a crazy year and our emergency fund buffer in place, we decided to make a lump sum payment to pay off the rest of the loans – around $ 15,000. We probably would have been eligible for additional funding for two years, but we were really grateful for how much the LRAP funding had already helped us and we were happy to get rid of our debt and allow other future students. to enjoy the benefits of the program!
Is there any advice you would like to share with prospective or current HBS students regarding loans or debt repayment?
Some HBS students may spend more on travel and entertainment, and if you are not from a wealthy background, you may experience envy or jealousy. I encourage everyone not to let these feelings creep in and impact your time in the program. Practice the virtue of contentment and remember the blessings of your own life… you are at Harvard Business School! There are so many reasons to be thankful.