The 20 wealthiest private universities and colleges in America

Columbia University's endowment had assets worth about $9 billion.

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Columbia University’s endowment had assets worth about $9 billion.
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Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

  • America’s top private universities are fantastically wealthy.
  • Using data from the Department of Education, we found the 20 private colleges and universities with the highest-valued endowments in 2017, the most recent period for which data is available.
  • Harvard University’s endowment had assets worth about $35.7 billion, landing it the top spot on the list.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In addition to being world-class research and educational institutions, America’s top private universities are also fantastically wealthy.

The Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System assembles statistics on thousands of institutions of higher learning in the US. One of the data points published is the value of assets in private university endowments.

As described by Investopedia, endowments are made up of “money or other financial assets that are donated to universities or colleges” that is then invested in order to build up long-term financial reserves and fund ongoing scholarships, research, and other activities.

As the Investopedia article notes, even though many university endowments are under strict guidelines on what percentage of the funds can be spent in any year, some of the wealthier schools have such highly valued endowments that a small share “can equal a large sum of money.”

Even with supplemental funding from their massive endowments, sticker-price tuition at many elite colleges and universities remains very high and continues to grow. Despite rising costs, however, a recent New York Fed study pointed out that, on average, a college degree is still a solid investment with a good average long-run rate of return.

Here are the 20 private nonprofit universities and colleges with the biggest endowments, as measured by total value of assets at the start of the 2017 fiscal year, the most recent period for which data is available, along with their location and the year they were founded, according to the schools’ websites:


20. Johns Hopkins University’s endowment had assets worth about $3.3 billion.

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Wikimedia Commons / Daderot

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Year established: 1876


19. New York University’s endowment had assets worth about $3.6 billion.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Location: New York City, New York

Year established: 1831


18. Vanderbilt University’s endowment had assets worth about $3.8 billion.

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Vanderbilt University/Facebook

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Year established: 1873


17. Dartmouth College’s endowment had assets worth about $4.5 billion.

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Jeffrey Bary/Flickr

Location: Hanover, New Hampshire

Year established: 1769


16. Cornell University’s endowment had assets worth about $4.5 billion.

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Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Location: Ithaca, New York

Year established: 1865


15. The University of Southern California’s endowment had assets worth about $4.6 billion.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Year established: 1880


14. Rice University’s endowment had assets worth about $5.4 billion.

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Rice University/Facebook

Location: Houston, Texas

Year established: 1912


13. The University of Chicago’s endowment had assets worth about $6.1 billion.

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Facebook/University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Year established: 1890


12. Washington University’s endowment had assets worth about $6.5 billion.

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WashULaw/Twitter

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Year established: 1853


11. Duke University’s endowment had assets worth about $6.8 billion.

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Duke University/Facebook

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Year established: 1838


10. Emory University’s endowment had assets worth about $6.9 billion.

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Facebook/Emory University

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Year established: 1836


9. Northwestern University’s endowment had assets worth about $7.5 billion.

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Northwestern University/Facebook

Location: Evanston, Illinois

Year established: 1850


8. Notre Dame’s endowment had assets worth about $8.7 billion.

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Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Location: Notre Dame, Indiana

Year established: 1842


7. Columbia University’s endowment had assets worth about $9.0 billion.

Columbia University's endowment had assets worth about $9 billion.

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Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Location: New York City, New York

Year established: 1754


6. The University of Pennsylvania’s endowment had assets worth about $10.7 billion.

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f11photo/Shutterstock

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Year established: 1740


5. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s endowment had assets worth about $13.2 billion.

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Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Year established: 1861


4. Princeton University’s endowment had assets worth about $21.7 billion.

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Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Year established: 1746


3. Stanford University’s endowment had assets worth about $22.4 billion.

Location: Stanford, California

Year established: 1885


2. Yale University’s endowment had assets worth about $25.4 billion.

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Reuters

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Year established: 1701


1. Harvard University’s endowment had assets worth about $35.7 billion.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Year established: 1636