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College endowments, or the value of investments based on donated money and financial assets, can be wide-ranging. While some hover in the low millions, the largest endowment in higher education is greater than the gross domestic product of countries such as Uganda, Bolivia and Nepal, per World Bank data from 2020.
At the end of fiscal year 2020, Harvard University in Massachusetts boasted an endowment of nearly $42 billion, per data collected by U.S. News in an annual survey. By contrast, none of the countries referenced above cracked $40 billion in GDP in 2020.
And while Harvard sits atop the list of universities with the biggest endowments, it is not unique in this regard — several other schools also have endowments that outpaced the GDP of various countries. Collectively, the 10 colleges on this list have endowments valued together at nearly $210 billion, according to data submitted to U.S. News.
Endowments often come with restrictions, meaning that colleges can use that money in limited ways, typically to continue to invest in the future of the institution in order to advance its mission and keep the university operating long term to serve future generations.
Though institutional wealth does not directly indicate academic quality, many of the schools with the largest endowments are regularly among the top colleges as ranked by U.S. News. Of the 10 schools with the largest endowments, nine are ranked among the top 25 National Universities, institutions that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Despite large endowments, many of these schools charge high tuition — though their wealth also allows them to offer generous financial aid packages, ultimately bringing costs down for students of modest means.
Eye-popping endowments, however, are not the norm across higher education. Among the 351 ranked National Universities that provided this data to U.S. News, the average endowment size at the end of fiscal year 2020 was around $1.4 billion.
Of the 10 National Universities that reported the smallest endowments to U.S. News, the average came out to nearly $10.7 million. By contrast, the average endowment for the 10 colleges on this list amounted to nearly $21 billion at the end of fiscal year 2020.
Below is a list of the 10 National Universities with the largest endowments at the conclusion of fiscal year 2020. Endowments were examined by campus, not across public university systems. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|SCHOOL (STATE)||END OF FISCAL YEAR 2020 ENDOWMENT||U.S. NEWS RANK|
|Harvard University (MA)||$41,894,380,000||2 (tie)|
|Yale University (CT)||$31,108,248,000||5|
|Stanford University (CA)||$28,948,111,000||6 (tie)|
|Princeton University (NJ)||$25,944,300,000||1|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$18,381,518,000||2 (tie)|
|University of Pennsylvania||$14,877,363,000||8|
|Texas A&M University||$12,720,529,611||68 (tie)|
|University of Notre Dame (IN)||$12,319,422,000||19|
|University of Michigan–Ann Arbor||$12,308,473,000||23 (tie)|
|Columbia University (NY)||$11,257,021,000||2 (tie)|
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find endowment figures, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,850 colleges and universities for our 2021 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The endowment data above is correct as of Sept. 21, 2021.
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