Special Report

America’s 25 Richest Universities

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Attending a university has become more and more 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 — 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, endowments of  25 American universities were worth  $5 billion in 2020. 

To identify America’s richest universities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the endowment market value of American colleges, universities, and foundations for fiscal year 2020, provided by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Many of the schools on this list 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 this list accepted fewer than 10% of applicants in the most recent school year. These are the hardest colleges to get into.

Click here to see America’s 25 richest universities.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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25. The Ohio State University
> 2020 endowment: $5.3 billion
> Change from 2019: +0.6%
> Location: Columbus, Ohio
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 61,391
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $46,100

Ohio State has one of the largest endowments of any American college or university, at $5.3 billion. For context, the average endowment of the over 705 colleges and universities that responded to the NACUBO survey is over $900 million, though most are less than $170 million.

Among the 25 American colleges and universities with endowments of more than $5 billion, Ohio State University is one of just six public universities. It is also one of the largest schools — not just on this list, but the country. The school had an undergraduate enrollment in fall 2019 of over 61,000, third highest of any college.

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24. University of Southern California
> 2020 endowment: $5.9 billion
> Change from 2019: +3.2%
> Location: Los Angeles, California
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 48,321
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $74,000

University of Southern California’s endowment performed much better than typical in fiscal year 2020, growing by 3.2% up to $5.9 billion. Nationwide, the median endowment grew just 0.6% during fiscal 2020, which ran from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Many colleges reported being financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. USC, a private university located in Los Angeles, is the most expensive school on this list, with an average net price of over $37,000.

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23. Dartmouth College
> 2020 endowment: $6.0 billion
> Change from 2019: +4.3%
> Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 6,606
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $75,500

With an endowment roughly $6 billion, Dartmouth College is one of seven Ivy League universities to have among America’s 25 largest endowments. Despite the large endowment, the student body at Dartmouth is very small. With roughly 6,600 students as of 2019, it is the smallest school on this list.

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22. Rice University
> 2020 endowment: $6.2 billion
> Change from 2019: -4.9%
> Location: Houston, Texas
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 7,282
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $65,400

Rice University is a research university located in Houston. While many of the schools on this list have had centuries of history to accrue wealth, Rice is relatively new, having been founded in 1912.

Endowments tend to grow each year, but Rice University’s endowment actually declined by 4.9% throughout fiscal year 2020, falling to $6.2 billion from $6.5 billion the year before, likely at least partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is by far the largest decline of any school on this list.

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21. The Johns Hopkins University
> 2020 endowment: $6.8 billion
> Change from 2019: +7.6%
> Location: Baltimore, Maryland
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 27,079
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $73,200

The Johns Hopkins University endowment swelled recently, when billionaire alumnus Michael Bloomberg promised in 2018 to donate $1.8 billion to the school. This is believed to be the largest modern donation to a higher educational institution in modern times. Bloomberg wrote in a New York Times op-ed column that he hoped the gift would ensure “finances will never again factor into decisions” about which students to admit.

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20. Vanderbilt University
> 2020 endowment: $6.9 billion
> Change from 2019: +10.3%
> Location: Nashville, Tennessee
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 13,131
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $69,000

No school on this list has seen a larger increase in its endowment in fiscal 2020 than Vanderbilt University. The Nashville school’s endowment grew 10.3% throughout the fiscal year to $6.9 billion — leapfrogging that of Johns Hopkins and Rice to rank as the 20th largest in the nation. Nationwide, the average growth of endowments was 1.6%, though there were hundreds of endowments that shrank throughout fiscal 2020, in large part reflecting the stock market crash from February to April 2020.

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19. Cornell University
> 2020 endowment: $7.2 billion
> Change from 2019: -1.5%
> Location: Ithaca, New York
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 24,027
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $77,200

Cornell University’s endowment of $7.2 billion is one of the 20 largest among U.S. colleges, though it is down 1.5% from $7.3 billion in 2019. Like many other colleges in America, Cornell University’s endowment contracted during the 2020 fiscal year, as the COVID-19 pandemic had major impacts on the markets and school finances. Cornell is one of eight Ivy League schools, seven of which have among the 25 largest endowments in America. Brown University is the only Ivy that did not make the cut, ranking 26th with an endowment of $4.4 billion.

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18. University of Virginia
> 2020 endowment: $7.3 billion
> Change from 2019: +2.8%
> Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 25,012
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $61,200

University of Virginia is one of just six public schools with an endowment of over $5 billion. As a public school, UVA is one of the least expensive colleges to attend on this list, with an average net price of less than $18,000. Though the school admits fewer than a quarter of applicants, at 23.9%, it has one of the highest acceptance rates among schools on this list, which tend to be highly selective.

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17. Emory University
> 2020 endowment: $7.9 billion
> Change from 2019: +0.8%
> Location: Atlanta, Georgia
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 14,415
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $66,000

Emory University’s endowment of $7.9 billion represents a 0.8% increase from the year before — smaller than the average increase of 1.6%, but larger than the median increase of 0.6%.

Emory University is a popular destination for foreign students, as 16.0% of the student body is made up of non-residents aliens.

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16. The University of Chicago
> 2020 endowment: $8.2 billion
> Change from 2019: -0.7%
> Location: Chicago, Illinois
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 17,452
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $68,100

University of Chicago’s endowment shrank by nearly $60 million from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020, likely due at least in part to the pandemic-induced stock market crash from February to April 2020 (the fiscal year ended in June 2020). Yet its 2020 endowment of $8.2 billion is still one of the largest in the nation. As is the case for many universities with large endowments, Uchicago is very expensive to attend — its average cost of attendance is over $75,000, the only school in America where this is the case.

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15. Washington University
> 2020 endowment: $8.4 billion
> Change from 2019: +5.9%
> Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 16,191
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $70,100

The endowment of Washington University grew by 5.9% — from less than $8 billion to over $8.4 billion — more than triple the average increase among all university endowments throughout fiscal 2020. The school is known for its engineering, business, and computer science programs.

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14. Duke University
> 2020 endowment: $8.5 billion
> Change from 2019: -1.6%
> Location: Durham, North Carolina
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 16,686
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $84,400

Duke University’s endowment declined by more than $100 million throughout fiscal 2020, a year when many schools struggled with their finances, as the COVID-19 pandemic shook the financial world. Nationwide, the average endowment increased by 1.6% that year, down from 5.3% the year before. Duke University students tend to go on to be financially successful, with most earning over $84,000 10 years after entering the school. At most schools, this figure is less than $48,000.

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13. Northwestern University
> 2020 endowment: $10.9 billion
> Change from 2019: -1.5%
> Location: Evanston, Illinois
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 22,448
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $69,000

Northwestern University, located just north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, is one of just 13 U.S. universities with an endowment of more than $10 billion. The school’s endowment was over $11 billion in 2019, but it declined by 1.5% during 2020. A prestigious private institution, Northwestern’s students had a median SAT score of 1490 out of 1600, one of the highest scores in the nation.

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12. Columbia University
> 2020 endowment: $11.3 billion
> Change from 2019: +2.8%
> Location: New York, New York
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 31,456
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $83,300

Columbia University is an Ivy League school located in New York City. Its endowment in 2020 reached $11.3 billion — equivalent to nearly $400,000 per student. Columbia is one of the most difficult schools to get into in the country. Its 5.4% acceptance rate is the third lowest in the nation, and the median SAT score among incoming first-year students for 2018 of 1505 out of 1600 was among the 10 highest in the nation.

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11. University of Notre Dame
> 2020 endowment: $12.0 billion
> Change from 2019: +6.2%
> Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 12,683
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $78,400

University of Notre Dame’s endowment in 2020 was nearly $12 billion, up nearly $700 million from the year before — a 6.2% increase. Nationwide, the average endowment grew by just 1.6% in 2020, down from a 5.3% increase in 2019 and 8.2% the year before that. The private school is affiliated with the Catholic Church, making it one of the only explicitly religious institutions on this list.

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10. Regents of the University of California
> 2020 endowment: $12.1 billion
> Change from 2019: +2.9%
> Location: Oakland, California
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 43,185
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $64,700

The University of California system consists of 10 campuses and five medical systems. It is one of just 10 schools with an endowment exceeding $12 billion. The vast majority of schools on this list are small, private institutions, but not University of California, which had a fall 2019 enrollment of over 43,000. The university’s endowment is equivalent to just under $56,000 per student, the lowest figure on this list. At the majority of schools on this list, the endowment is worth over half a million dollars per student.

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9. University of Michigan
> 2020 endowment: $12.5 billion
> Change from 2019: +0.2%
> Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 48,090
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $63,400

University of Michigan is one of the wealthiest schools in America, with over $12.5 billion in its endowment. This figure increased just slightly, 0.2%, in fiscal 2020, well behind the growth rate of most other college endowments.

The university is one of just six public institutions on this list, and three of those are large university systems with multiple campuses. University of Michigan is just one campus, located in the state capital of Ann Arbor. Generally, public schools are much easier to get into than private ones, yet U-M is one of the most selective schools in America, accepting less than a quarter of students who apply.

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8. The Texas A&M University System & Related Foundations
> 2020 endowment: $13.6 billion
> Change from 2019: +0.6%
> Location: College Station, Texas
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 68,726
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $58,000

The Texas A&M University System consists of 11 different campuses across the state of Texas, with the flagship location in College Station. The system has a $13.6 billion endowment, one of the 10 largest in the U.S.

The Texas A&M University System admitted 57.8% of applicants for the 2019-2020 school year — a lower acceptance rate than the vast majority of colleges that responded to the NACUBO endowment survey, but by far the highest acceptance rate of any school on this list.

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7. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania
> 2020 endowment: $14.9 billion
> Change from 2019: +1.6%
> Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 26,675
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $85,900

University of Pennsylvania’s alumni base tends to be financially well off, which likely helps the school maintain high levels of donations to boost its endowment. A decade after entering the university, most people in the workforce earn over $85,000 annually, one of the highest median earnings of any college in America.

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6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
> 2020 endowment: $18.5 billion
> Change from 2019: +5.3%
> Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 11,520
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $104,700

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of 17 U.S. universities with endowments so large that they are worth over $1 million per full time student. In MIT’s case, the $18.5 billion endowment for the 11,520-person student body translates to $1.6 million per student. Even among universities on this list, whose alumni tend to earn very high wages , MIT stands out. It is one of just a dozen colleges nationwide — and the only one on this list — in which most former students earn over $100,000 within 10 years of entering the school.

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5. Trustees of Princeton University
> 2020 endowment: $26.6 billion
> Change from 2019: +1.7%
> Location: Princeton, New Jersey
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 8,149
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $74,700

New Jersey’s Ivy League school Princeton University has the fifth largest endowment of any American university, at $26.6 billion. The school’s endowment slightly outperformed the average endowment, increasing 1.7% compared to its 2019 total.

Princeton University is one of the most exclusive schools on this list, admitting just 5.8% of applicants. With a student body of just over 8,100 students, Princeton’s endowment amounts to $3.4 million per student — over a $1 million higher than any other school on this list.

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4. Stanford University
> 2020 endowment: $28.9 billion
> Change from 2019: +4.5%
> Location: Stanford, California
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 17,249
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $94,000

Stanford University has an endowment of $28.9 billion, which is nearly 175 times higher than the median endowment among schools that responded to the NACUBO survey on endowments. The university reported that about 80% of its endowment is restricted by the donors for specific purposes and is spread out among over 8,000 specific funds.

Stanford is one of the most prestigious schools in America, and as such, it is very exclusive. Stanford admitted just 4.3% of applicants for the 2019-2020 school year — the lowest of over 600 schools for which there is data.

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3. Yale University
> 2020 endowment: $31.2 billion
> Change from 2019: +2.9%
> Location: New Haven, Connecticut
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 13,609
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $83,200

Yale University is one of just three higher educational institutions in America with an endowment greater than $30 billion. Most U.S. colleges and universities have endowments of less than $165 million. Yale is one of seven Ivy League schools on this list. These schools are generally among the oldest and most selective in the country, and Yale is no exception. The school admits just 6.1% of applicants.

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2. University of Texas System
> 2020 endowment: $32.0 billion
> Change from 2019: +3.2%
> Location: Austin, Texas
> Fall 2019 undergraduate enrollment: 51,090
> Typical earnings 10 years after entry: $58,200

The University of Texas System has the largest endowment of any public university, at $32 billion. The endowment grew by 3.2%, or $1 billion, compared to the previous year. The system is made up of eight universities and six hospitals, with the University of Texas at Austin serving as the flagship school. It is one of just seven U.S. schools and school systems with enrollments of over 50,000 students in the fall 2019 semester.

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1. Harvard University
> 2020 endowment: $40.6 billion
> 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, far and away 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 presidents among its former staff and alumni base.

Methodology

Note: the IPEDS data for system-wide endowments (University of Texas System, The Texas A&M University System & Related Foundations, Regents of the University of California, etc.) uses the data for the flagship school in the system.

To identify America’s richest universities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the endowment market value of American colleges, universities, and foundations for fiscal year 2020, provided by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. 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.

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