Special Report

Where America's 25 Richest Billionaires Went to College

Is going to a prestigious university the key to getting rich? All 25 of the richest Americans attended at least some college, and most graduated. To determine where America’s richest people went to college, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed net worth statistics from Forbes‘ real time billionaire’s ranking, a snapshot of wealth, as of late last year. Alma mater information came from different sources.

About a fifth of the nation’s billionaire, including Michael Dell and Larry Ellison, dropped out of college before finishing their undergraduate degree. (Though this may not have been the reason, the increasing cost of college deters some Americans from acquiring higher education. To address this, some prestigious schools are among the colleges that promise zero student debt.)

Over half of the 25 of the richest Americans went to Ivy League schools, including the three wealthiest. Others attended public state universities, and a few went to small, private liberal arts colleges. Harvard is the most attended university. Four of the 25 richest Americans attended the university, though Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out before graduating

Most of America’s richest citizens studied subjects related to their careers and sources of wealth. Elon Musk earned undergraduate degrees in both economics and physics. Jeff Bezos studied electrical engineering and computer science. Nike founder Phil Knight studied business and competed as a middle-distance runner for the University of Oregon track and field team. 

There are a few outliers. Mars candy company heiress Jacqueline Mars studied anthropology, for example.

The 25 richest people in America have a collective wealth of $1.7 trillion, more than the gross domestic product of most countries. Though these billionaires attended a range of universities, a top-tier education often forges relationships and connections and can certainly help with future earnings prospects — but is no guarantee of joining the top 1%. (Also check out the most educated big cities in the country.)

Correction: A previous version of this story, in summarizing Len Blavatnik’s career, omitted the fact that he earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.   

Click here to see where America’s 25 riches0t billionaires went to college.

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