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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The payback comes fast for graduates of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville master’s of business administration program, Business Week reports.

The magazine says MBA graduates of UT-Knoxville take only 4.1 median years to recoup their tuition and the income they lost by not working the two years it takes to earn the degree.

The article appears in the Oct. 19 issue of the magazine. It’s based on a 1998 survey of 6,000 MBA graduates representing 61 business schools.

“We are very pleased to be recognized by Business Week in this important way,” said Dr. Gary Dicer, head of the MBA program. “This is further evidence of our efforts to deliver a quality MBA program at an affordable price.”

Only MBA graduates of the University of Pittsburg (3.7 years), Clark University (3.8 years), and the University of South Carolina (4 years) earn a faster return on their investment.

“Pitt tops the list because its MBA program lasts only one year, halving the investment of its students,” the magazine says.

“Moreover, the class of 1998 walked away with a 68 percent salary increase over its pre-MBA income.”

At UT-Knoxville the class of ’98 increased its pre-MBA income by 91 percent, the magazine says.

Business Week used Jens Stephan, academic director of MBA programs at the University of Cincinnati, to help figure out which business schools offered the fastest paybacks.

Education costs for the students in the survey included an average $40,000 for two years of tuition, plus approximately $80,000 representing lost income from jobs left behind. Almost all MBA programs require prior work experience as a condition of admission.

U.S. News and World Report in March ranked UT-Knoxville’s MBA program 43rd in the nation, taking program quality and costs into consideration.