In looking for a university to attend, you are probably considering such factors as location, reputation, faculty, and majors. But are you considering a school’s wealth?
The wealthier the university, the better its facilities are likely to be, and better facilities mean more up-to-date technology and research opportunities. Moreover, richer schools tend to attract a world-class faculty, and usually have more scholarship moneys to distribute, sometimes even waiving tuition costs entirely for students in financial need.
Though a university’s wealth typically comes from donations of money, people and charitable foundations also donate such things as land, buildings, artwork, rare books and documents, and other things of high monetary value.
The following schools are considered the 100 richest in North America. Many of them are also on our ranking of the 100 Best Universities in the World, as well as our ranking of the 100 Best Online Colleges, which demonstrates a connection between endowment and school quality. We have ranked them by financial endowment (sourced from the 2017 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments) , meaning the trust available to each university through cash and other assets. We have also included important information, such as the average undergraduate cost of tuition before any reductions (from the National Center of Education Statistics), average salary for full professors (from the Chronicle of Higher Education), and annual research budget (from the National Science Foundation annual report).
Note: This ranking is time-sensitive and more so than most TBS rankings needs to be updated regularly as endowments can change significantly and quickly in response to major influxes of cash from donors as well as volatility of investments. This ranking was last updated July 2018.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
With a current endowment of over $36 billion, Ivy League Harvard University is the wealthiest university in the world. Founded in 1636 as New College, it was quickly renamed in honor of John Harvard, a Cambridge-educated clergyman who donated $1,285 and a large collection of books. Since then, Harvard has continued to accumulate land, books, artwork, valuable documents, and — especially in recent years — money. In 2015, alumnus John A. Paulson donated $400 million to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, making him the largest single-gift donor in university history. Other major donors include the NFL Players Association, David Rockefeller, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Kenneth C. Griffin, and Bill and Melinda Gates, all of whom have donated totals of more than $100 million. Harvard University also ranks first as the best university in the world and in the U.S.
- Endowment: $36,021,516,000
- Average annual tuition per undergraduate student: $48,949
- Average salary of full professor: $221,382
- Annual research budget: $1,077,253,000 — Harvard ranks #7 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #1 University in the World
2. Yale University — $27.1 Billion
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Ranked the sixth-best university in the world, Ivy League Yale is a highly selective university known for its schools of law, medicine, management, and drama, among others. With a rapidly increasing endowment currently hovering around $27.1 billion, Yale is also one of the richest universities in the world. Although a quarter of Yale’s wealth comes in the form of its many assets, the majority of its wealth is traditional endowment. Some of Yale’s largest single-donation contributions have occurred in the last five years. In 2010, Zhang Lei, a Chinese MBA graduate, donated nearly $9 million. The next year, media magnate John C. Malone followed that up with a $50 million donation. And in 2014, former Franklin Resources chairman Charles B. Johnson gifted Yale with a massive $250 million.
- Endowment: $27,176,100,000
- Average annual tuition per undergraduate student: $51,400
- Average salary of full professor: $216,189
- Annual research budget: $881,765,000 — Yale ranks #17 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #6 University in the World
3. The University of Texas System — $26.5 Billion
Austin, Texas, USA
Founded in 1876 and consisting of nine independent schools
(including the flagship UT Austin), the University of Texas system is valued at over $26.5 billion. A large part of this wealth has come from individual donors such as the Moody Foundation, Hearst Corporation, and Mulva Family Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Science Complex, Dell Computer Science Hall, and (Red) McCombs School of Business are all results of large monetary contributions. Since 2011, University of Texas has also been able to boast a valuable ESPN deal worth a reported $300 million, the “Longhorn Network” though it has not proven to be as successful as had been initially hoped
- Endowment: $26,535,095,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $36,744 (Austin)
- Average salary of full professor: $116,119 (Austin)
- Annual research budget: $621,692,000 (Austin)
- Ranked #28 University in the World
4. Stanford University — $24.7 Billion
Stanford, California, USA
The fourth-wealthiest school in North America and the tenth-highest-ranked, Stanford University is known for its schools of education, engineering, law, medicine, and business, among others. Originally founded in 1885 by former U.S. Senator Leland Stanford, the massive university is located on valuable land in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, much of the 1940s was spent encouraging staff and alumni to found the companies that would lead to the rise of nearby Silicon Valley. More recently, Stanford has solidified itself as the leading fundraising college in the U.S. Since 2001, it has received a number of sizable monetary gifts from big-name donors such as the Hewlett Foundation, Dorothy and Robert King, and real estate mogul John Arrillaga. In 2016, Philip K. Knight, co-founder of Nike, gave Stanford its largest donation ever, at $400 million. Stanford’s current endowment is an impressive $24.7 billion.
- Endowment: $24,784,943,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $49,617
- Average salary of full professor: $234,549
- Annual research budget: $1,066,269,000 — Stanford University ranks #8 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #10 University in the World
5. Princeton University — $23.8 Billion
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is now the seventh-highest-ranked university in the world, and the fifth-wealthiest in North America. Valued at nearly $24 billion, Princeton’s wealth includes traditional endowment, graduate donations, and a world-renowned art museum which houses pieces by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman donated $30 million to complete Whitman College, while the Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies was partly funded by a $10 million gift from graduates Bijan and Sharmin Mossayer-Rahmani. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is also a major contributor to Princeton. Princeton’s largest donation came in 2015 from the will of William H. Scheide, who left his alma mater $300 million worth of rare books.
- Endowment: $23,812,241,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $47,140
- Average salary of full professor: $206,496
- Annual research budget: $305,147,000
- Ranked #7 University in the World
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — $14.96 Billion
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Founded in 1865 and relocated to Cambridge in 1916, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded with money left by an anonymous donor known only as Mr. Smith. Later, that donor was revealed to be George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak. Since then, MIT has become a leader in science, technology, and engineering, and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the fifth-best school in the nation. Former General Motors CEO Alfred P. Sloan was one of the school’s biggest early donors, followed shortly after by retail tycoon Sebastian S. Kresge. Their respective donations resulted in the Sloan Business School and Kresge Auditorium. Including a recent $260 million gift from the F.W. Olin Foundation, MIT’s current endowment is $13.18 billion. In June of 2017 MIT received yet another anonymous donation of $140 million.
- Endowment: $14,967,983,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $49,892
- Average salary of full professor: $213,750
- Annual research budget: $946,159,000 — MIT ranks #13 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #8 University in the World
7. University of Pennsylvania — $12.2 Billion
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Co-founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751, University of Pennsylvania is ranked today as the 20th-best university in the world. The university is best known as the home of the Wharton School of Business, which was named in 1881 after industrialist and benefactor Joseph Wharton. In 2011, the well-regarded School of Medicine was renamed after receiving a $225 million donation by Raymond and Ruth Perelman. The year before, the university received $400 million in private donations. The school’s current endowment is $12.2 billion.
- Endowment: $12,213,202,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $53,534
- Average salary of full professor: $209,223
- Annual research budget: $1,296,429,000 — University of Pennsylvania ranks #3 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #20 University in the World
8. Texas A&M University System — $11.55 Billion
College Station, Texas, USATexas A&M has become one of the biggest tertiary systems in the United States. Though the system consists of 11 campuses throughout the state of Texas, its flagship is undoubtedly Texas A&M College Station, home of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The endowment is currently valued at $11.55 billion, increased in part by a wildly successful fundraising campaign in 2013 that raised $740 million. Notably, the system is heavily involved in research of various kinds, with projects funded by NASA and the National Institute of Health, among others. In each of the last four years, the system has spent upwards of $700 million on research.
- Endowment: $11,556,260,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $36,606 (College Station)
- Average salary of full professor: $140,436 (College Station)
- Annual research budget: $892,718,000 (College Station) — Texas A&M ranks #15 for Largest Research Budgets
9. University of Michigan — $10.9 Billion
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Ranked as the fourth-best university in the world, the University of Michigan is known for more than just football. Founded in Detroit in 1812, it was relocated to Ann Arbor 20 years later. Not surprisingly, the Ford Motor Company was an early benefactor, and a gift by Ford stockholder Horace H. Rackham resulted in the Rackham Graduate School. Beginning in 2000, a nearly decade-long fundraising campaign, “Michigan Difference Campaign,” solidified the University as a top fundraising school. The campaign raised over $3 billion, including a $100 million gift from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross. Currently, U of M’s endowment is valued at nearly $11 billion.
- Endowment: $10,936,014,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $47,476 (Ann Arbor)
- Average salary of full professor: $167,364 (Ann Arbor)
- Annual research budget: $1,436,448,000 (Ann Arbor) — University of Michigan ranks #2 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #4 University in the World
10. Northwestern University — $10.4 Billion
Evanston, Illinois, USA
Endowment: $10,436,692,000Founded in 1850 and opened to the public in 1855, Northwestern is currently worth over $10.4 billion. It has two campuses, in Evanston and Chicago, as well as a third location in Doha, Qatar. Much of Northwestern University’s wealth comes in the form of building and land assets. The Kellogg School of Management and Feinberg School of Medicine, two of the school’s most renowned programs, are housed in buildings gifted through a collective $85 million. Northwestern also has a profitable Innovation and New Ventures Office, which brings in an average $75 million per year of licensing revenue.
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $52,678
- Average salary of full professor: $200,268
- Annual research budget: $713,491,000 — Northwestern ranks #26 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #24 University in the World
11. Columbia University — $9.99 Billion
- Endowment: $9,996,596,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: $57,208
- Average salary of full professor: $215,091
- Annual research budget: $837,312,000 — Columbia University ranks #18 for Largest Research Budgets
- Ranked #5 University in the World
12. University of California System — $9.78 Billion
Oakland, California, USA
With five of its 10 official campuses ranked amongst the 50 best universities in the U.S., University of California has become one of the top choices in public education. Though the UC System has its origins in 1868 with UC Berkeley, the headquarters of the UC system’s Board of Regents resides in Oakland. Thanks to consistent, sizable donations, including $500 million from oil giant BP, the University of California System endowment currently sits at over $9.78 billion, not including some of the also notable endowments of its individual schools that appear later on this list.
- Endowment: $9,787,627,000
- Annual cost of tuition per undergraduate student: N/A
- Average salary of full professor: N/A
- Annual research budget: N/A
- Ranked #22 University in the World