The 20 colleges and universities with the most ultra-wealthy alumni

There is no other institution in the United States like Harvard when it comes to having the most well-off graduates.

Knock Harvard for its super selectivity or its perceived snootiness, but it does one thing far better than any other institution in the world. It matriculates and graduates the most ultra-wealthy alumni, or those with $30 million in net worth, through its halls in Cambridge, Mass.

According to this year’s University Alumni Report on wealth from Altrata, Harvard has more than double the amount of that pool of well-off individuals including senior executives than its next closest challenger, Stanford University. U.S. universities rule the list, with the rest of the Top 5–University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, New York University–all outpacing their international rivals.

Why is that so important?

“Wealthy and influential alumni offer their alma mater a variety of significant commercial and academic opportunities,” Altrata’s lead authors Maya Imberg and Maeen Shaban note in the report. “These include major private donations, corporate partnerships/donations and networking opportunities for students and recent alumni, among others. In an increasingly competitive education market, institutions need to make the most of their ultra-wealthy and senior executive alumni.”

Harvard, in fact, has more than 17,000 in that category (to Stanford’s 7,900-plus), which means that it is positioned best as an institution to have the most impact, both financially and academically via research and the latest innovations in learning and instruction. Consider the reach of a Harvard and other leaders in terms of prospective partnerships. Those with deep pockets and high standing in senior executive positions (in which Harvard is also No. 1) means that those institutions are poised to connect with the wealthiest and most influential people across the planet. Authors note that “the average senior executive alum of a top 20 U.S. university has accumulated 1,280 direct professional connections to senior decision-makers.”

The rest of the top 10 includes Northwestern University, the University of Cambridge in the UK, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Several public four-year universities from the U.S. also cracked the top 20, including the University of Texas, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia.

When it comes to the percentage of wealthy individuals from the top 50 universities who are “self-made”, Harvard and other Ivy League schools, however, are not as strong as the U.S. Military Academy and Naval Academy, which have percentages that exceed 95%. They were the only two to beat out the top five international competitors, which all scored above 92%. The California Institute of Technology (91.7%), the University of College Park in Maryland (90.7%), the University of Pittsburgh (89.1%), Johns Hopkins University (88.7%) and the University of Chicago (84.7%) were the next best in the U.S.

Although women tend to make up a larger portion of enrollees at U.S. institutions, they are not at all close in attaining the same wealth as men. The university with the highest percentage of ultra-wealthy individuals is George Washington at 16.2%, followed by Duke University (12.7%), Boston University (12.6%), Tufts University (12.5%) and Southern Methodist University (12.2%). The institutions that have the most female senior executives in the U.S. are UCLA (29.3%) and UC-Berkeley (29.1%), but they trail others in the world, including No. 1 the University of Melbourne in Australia (40.2%)

BU features the largest percentage of international alumni achieving ultra-wealthy status (39.7%), but it pales next to the reach of France INSEAD (92.1%) and the University of Manchester in the UK (87.8%). USC and MIT each surpass the 30% threshold.

More from UB: Where are the big gifts to your college or university coming from?

One interesting category included by Altrata is the percentage of the ultra-wealthy who are the youngest. The top two universities come from the Middle East–Kuwait University and the University of Beirut–with researchers noting that “at 40.7 years, Kuwait University has by far the lowest average age of UHNW alumni, a reflection of the rapid wealth-creation opportunities in the oil-rich emirate.” As for the U.S., the lowest average age is the University of Denver (56.7%), followed by four Northeast institutions–Boston College (57.1%), Tufts University (57.6), Brown University (57.9) and BU (58.1).

Much of the success of the ultra wealthy come from the positions they hold, and five universities in the U.S. stand out for the number of alumni they have that hold senior executive posts. Harvard is No. 1 there (3,897) and followed by Penn, Stanford, Columbia and Northwestern. Harvard’s wealthy, not surprisingly, also have the most professional connections of any U.S. institution in a list dominated by the Ivy Leagues, with Princeton at No. 3, Dartmouth at No. 4, Yale at No. 6, Columbia at No. 7 and Penn at No. 9.

Harvard also leads the way on senior execs at companies in the Global 19, beating out INSEAD and the University of Oxford. It ranks No. 1 as well in terms of execs rising into C-suite positions quickly. Wealthy alums who attended Stanford, Rice University, Vanderbilt University and Penn also see super-fast progressions, a testament to those institutions preparing students for future work.

The top 20 U.S. universities churning out the most ultra-wealthy alums:

  1. Harvard University 17,660
  2. Stanford University 7,972
  3. University of Pennsylvania 7,517
  4. Columbia University 5,528
  5. New York University 5,214
  6. Northwestern University 4,354
  7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4,089
  8. Yale University 3,654
  9. University of Southern California 3,594
  10. University of Chicago 3,588
  11. University of Texas 3,407
  12. Princeton University 3,173
  13. Cornell University 2,911
  14. UCLA 2,906
  15. University of Michigan 2,881
  16. University of Notre Dame 2,804
  17. University of Virginia 2,568
  18. Georgetown University 2,505
  19. Boston University 2,310
  20. Miami University (OH) 2,285

The top 10 non-U.S. universities:

  1. University of Cambridge (UK) 4,149
  2. National University of Singapore 3,653
  3. University of Oxford (UK) 3,356
  4. INSEAD (France) 2,625
  5. London School of Economics (UK) 2,017
  6. University of Toronto (Canada) 1,156
  7. University of Mumbai (India) 1,131
  8. Peking University (China) 1,101
  9. Tsinghua University (China) 1,100
  10. University of Delhi (India) 1,027
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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