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In the same cheery e-mail that informed me of my acceptance at INSEAD, I also learned that the non-sponsored students (those like me whose company is not about to foot the bill) would be paying a tuition of 50,000 EUR.  Actually, that’s not quite right.  The extra special nice touch is that the original e-mail contained a typo, saying the tuition was actually 48,000 EUR (which is what it was last year).  And, no one actually bothered to rescind that mistake until yesterday when I e-mailed to ask why the numbers on the payment schedule and the letter of admission did not match up.  Unprofessional.  I got admitted in late May, when the Euro to Dollar rate offered by my bank was at 1.65.  Making that first 5,000 EUR deposit was an ugly thing.  

After sending in the deposit to secure your spot, you gain access to an intranet with information on loans, visa process, renting an apartment, renting a car and an absolutely impossible-to-search message board full of inside jokes of the current class.  Mostly, the message you get is this: you’re an adult, figure it out yourself.  I was kinda hoping someone could hold my hand a little.  

On the financing side, it turns out that as a French national, you’re entitled to loans at interest rates as low as 2.4% plus some insurance.  Those who have a French relative or a close family friend willing to guarantee the loan are also eligible for those rates (given that the friend is wealthy enough to qualify for the amount you seek).  Those without can try to obtain a guarantee from a bank in their home country.  The rest are left to seek loans from their home country.  INSEAD used to have some sort of an agreementwith ABN/Amro, but that might have been as far back as 2001 when tuition was 35,000 EUR.

Try as I might, I quickly reached a dead-end seeking a guarantee from a US bank.  If you’re reading this, save yourself the agony.  Basically the French bank wants to assume zero risk when making loans to others and the US banks have no incentive to guarantee a loan at a lower rate than a loan that they would give you themselves.  Banks from other countries may not give you a loan for 75,000 EUR, in which case this guarantee actually makes sense.  

All are then encouraged to apply for scholarships.  I wrote essays to the tune of why aren’t there more women in upper management (is that a bad thing for women?), why my background is diverse from others, or why I deserve a scholarship based on my nationality.  Dinged on three, with responses coming in a month late, without so much as an excuse or a note of apology.  So, a Chinese national may qualify for a scholarship based on need although a French friend of the family may help them obtain a 3% loan, while someone from the US who is looking at LIBOR + 4% variable loans is likely to get squat and be left to beating up middle school kids for lunch money as a way of funding their MBA.  

I’m wondering about how this disparity is going to play out in our class.  Stay tuned.

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