I don't think in terms of "return".
The MBA was an experience. When I was in banking prior to b-school, I applied to b-schools precisely to get the hell out of banking. To see if there was something else. That was my goal - nothing more, nothing less. I saved a bunch of money while I was a banker (I was an expat and lived for a good chunk of it in Hong Kong and Singapore so I saved more than double what my analyst buddies in the US were saving) so I had two choices:
(1) Invest in dot-com stocks and live off the "NASDAQ 5,000 and beyond", or
(2) Pay tuition for an MBA program.
As a burnt out banker, I needed the time to simply chill but to do so in a way where I wouldn't have a "gap" on my resume. School is good for that. Had I not gotten in, I was prepared to transfer to another part of the bank (I had some opportunities in trading) in London or somewhere. Back then PE and VC were both pretty hot and I had some leads there as well (in fact, I had one dude who I knew tried to get me to drop out of Wharton to join their VC but thankfully I didn't). In any case, I was sick of finance so chances are had I not gotten in I probably would've only lasted another year and dropped out of finance completely - regardless of whether I got into b-school.
So yes, it was the best decision for me at that particular point in time that I could think of. Plus, I was really really young then (I was the 2nd youngest @ Wharton out of a class of 760 or so, by a couple of years and probably even younger than some of the submatrics from Wharton undergrad).
I didn't know my head from my ass back then (and some will say I still don't now haha) but between investing in Webvan, Pets.com and other NASDAQ darlings vs. going to school, I lucked out and chose the best door.
As for recruiting, it didn't enter my mind really at all back then. I had a decent resume, strong contacts from my banking days, and with an MBA from a good school it was icing on the cake - I certainly wasn't unique in this at all, but it's a sentiment that was shared by many bulge bracket bankers and M/B/B consultants back then. I wasn't worried about finding a decent job (of course little did anyone know how the stock market mania of the late 1990s would come crashing down in '01). Even when the markets started to crash when I was in school, I wasn't really worried (maybe I should've been). I lucked out and found a decent job and moved on with my life.
Also, back then it was $100K all-in ($50K tuition for 2 years, $50K in living costs) - that was just 10 years ago.
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