Attending a university has become increasingly expensive. American students more than ever must turn to grants, scholarships and other aid to help afford higher education. Many schools can offer students financial aid through their endowments. These are invested assets, largely from donations, that are used to further the institution’s educational mission.
As colleges accrue funds throughout decades and even centuries, their endowments can swell into the billions of dollars. In fact, the endowments of 25 American universities were worth at least $5 billion in 2020. The university with the largest endowment is above the $40 billion mark.
To identify America’s richest university, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the endowment market value of American colleges, universities and foundations for fiscal 2020, provided by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Many schools on the finalist list for the richest university rank among the oldest in American history and have long been established hubs for higher education and research.
It should come as no surprise that the richest universities are also among the most exclusive. These schools can afford the best faculty, drawing top students from around the world. These students often go on to be successful in their field and donate large financial gifts to the schools after becoming wealthy. Most schools on the finalist list of 25 universities accepted fewer than 10% of applicants in the most recent school year.
Harvard University has the largest endowment based on a 2020 figure of $40.6 billion. Other figures of the university include the following:
> Change from 2019: +2.9%
> Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 31,655
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $89,700
Harvard University is America’s oldest university, established in 1636. It is also the nation’s wealthiest, with a $40.6 billion endowment, by far the largest of any school. Harvard may be America’s most prestigious university as well, admitting just 4.6% of applicants, lower than all schools except Stanford. The university boasts over 150 Nobel laureates and eight U.S. presidents among its former staff and alumni base.
Our methodology: Note that the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System data for systemwide endowments (the University of Texas System, the Texas A&M University System & Related Foundations, Regents of the University of California, and so on) uses the data for the flagship school in the system. Net tuition prices and undergraduate enrollment for each university come from the National Center for Education Statistics and are for the most recent years available.