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The 10 Best Colleges and Universities for Becoming Super-Rich

If you want to become super-rich, what are the best schools to attend? The simplest way to answer this question is to look at the richest people in the US and see where they went to school. In other words, look at the schools that got the most foot traffic from those who ended up becoming ultra-rich. Note that graduation rates are unimportant here: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both went to Harvard and both dropped out before finishing. But Harvard was still important in their becoming rich. For instance, Zuck’s Facemash, developed at Harvard, was the prototype for Facebook.

To make this ranking more sophisticated, you can also weight the foot traffic by the wealth of the people who went there. So, for instance, Jeff Bezos, whose wealth is over $170 billion, would boost his alma mater Princeton more than Kenneth Langone, whose wealth is around $3 billion and who went to Bucknell. In our ranking of the ten best universities for becoming super-rich, we’re simply going to count the foot traffic of the 200 or so richest people in the US. We may get fancier in subsequent articles with weighting by actual wealth and with increasing the number of super-rich people that we consider. But this will do for now.

In forming this ranking, we focused on those individuals in the US with a recorded wealth of $3 billion or more and then tracked which schools they attended. The actual ranking we came up with will probably not surprise anyone, but there are a few things to note. All the schools in the ranking were in fact universities, and not four-year colleges. Thus, if you want to become super-rich, you’re better off attending a full-fledged university even as an undergraduate. Of course, this advice hinges on using billionaire foot traffic to gauge academic preference. If you think that some particular school not in our ranking offers a skill set that will help you to become rich, then have at it.

The Ivies were over-represented in our ranking, with six of them appearing in it. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the dominance of the University of Pennsylvania, though not for the school overall but for its business school, namely, the Wharton School, In the list of billionaires below, we simply list the names of colleges and universities rather than names of subdivisions like the Wharton School. But a deeper dive showed that of the 17 billionaires listed below who had gone to the University Of Pennsylvania, 13 had attended the Wharton School (including Elon Musk and Donald Trump). Perhaps the biggest take-away from this finding is that if you really want to become a billionaire, you can’t do better than to attend the Wharton Business School.

Another interesting feature of this ranking is that after the top ten schools for becoming super-rich, the ranking became less reliable. Thus, whereas the schools on our top-ten list attracted a variety of billionaires with different interests and backgrounds, billionaire head counts for other schools tended to be significantly lowered and/or to cluster in super-rich families. Thus, for instance, the University of Arkansas came up fairly big because members of the Walton family liked to attend it. Likewise, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University came up fairly big because members of the Pritzker family liked to attend it. These were typically local effects, with the Waltons based in Arkansas and the Pritzkers in Chicago.

What follows is the list of persons in the US whose wealth is at least $3 billion along with the schools they attended. On the basis of this list, we will then tabulate the number of people who attended a given school and thereby determine our “super-rich ranking” of the best colleges and universities in the US. Our actual ranking is at the end of this article.

NOTE: The wealth of the super-rich can tend to fluctuate, though usually it’s increasing. The data in the list below is from 2020. Perhaps the biggest change from that time to the time of publishing this article is in the wealth of Elon Musk, which according to an April 2021 Forbes article more than doubled to $151 billion, putting Musk second only to Jeff Bezos at $177 billion. But Musk is not alone in seeing his wealth change in the list below. The point to appreciate is that such fluctuations do not affect the schools that the super-rich attend, and thus at most minimally affect our ranking of the best schools for becoming super-rich.

People in the United States worth $3 billion or more

$150 billion or more:

  • Jeff Bezos, Princeton

$100 billion to $149.9 billion:

  • Bill Gates, Harvard

$80 billion to $99.9 billion:

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard

$65 billion to $79.9 billion:

  • Elon Musk, UPenn
  • Warren Buffett, UNebraska & Columbia
  • Steve Balmer, Harvard
  • Lawrence Ellison, UChicago
  • Larry Page, UMich & Stanford
  • Sergey Brin, UMaryland & Stanford

$50 billion to $64.9 billion:

  • Michael Bloomberg, JohnsHopkins & Harvard
  • James Walton, UArkansas
  • S. Robson Walton, UArkansas & Columbia
  • Alice L. Walton, TrinityU
  • Charles G. Koch, MIT

$25 billion to $49.9 billion:

  • Sheldon Adelson, CUNY
  • Philip Knight, UOregon & Stanford

$20 billion to $24.9 billion:

  • George Soros, London School of Economics
  • Jacqueline Mars, Bryn Mawr
  • John F. Mars, Yale
  • Michael Dell, UTexas
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, UPenn & Stanford

$15 billion to $19.9 billion:

  • James Simons, MIT & UCBerkeley
  • Leonard Lauder, UPenn
  • Pierre Omidyar, Tufts
  • Raymond Dalio, Harvard
  • Rupert Murdoch, Oxford
  • Thomas Peterffy, none
  • Carl Icahn, Princeton
  • Abigail Johnson, Smith & Harvard
  • Donald Bren, UWashington
  • Eric Schmidt, Princeton & UCBerkeley

$10 billion to $14.9 billion:

  • John Menard Jr., UWisconsin
  • Harold Hamm, Phillips
  • Charles Ergen, UTennessee & WakeForest
  • Steven Cohen, UPenn
  • Dustin Moskovitz, none
  • Donald Newhouse, Syracuse
  • Ronald Perelman, UPenn
  • Philip Anschutz, UKansas
  • David Tepper, UPittsburgh & CarnegieMellon
  • Andrew Beal, none
  • Stephen Schwarzman, Yale & Harvard

$7.5 billion to $9.9 billion:

  • Gordon Moore, UCBerkeley & Caltech
  • James Goodnight, NCState
  • James Kennedy, UDenver
  • Micky Arison, UMiami
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, UWitwatersrand
  • John Paulson, NYU & Harvard
  • Kenneth Griffin, Harvard
  • George Kaiser, Harvard
  • Elaine Marshall, none
  • John Malone, Yale & NYU & JohnsHopkins
  • David Geffen, none
  • Charles Schwab, Stanford
  • Eli Broad, MSU

$5 billion to $7.4 billion:

  • Stephen Ross, UMichigan & WayneState & NYU
  • Carl Cook, Purdue & UIowa
  • Shahid Kahn, UIllinois
  • E. Stanley Kroenke, UMissouri
  • Robert Rowling, SMU
  • Richard Kinder, UMissouri
  • Hansjoerg Wyss, Harvard
  • Katharine Rayner, none
  • Margaretta Taylor, none
  • James Chambers, Bard
  • Edward Johnson III, Harvard
  • Jan Koum, SanJoseState
  • John Sobrato, SantaClaraU
  • Leon Black, Dartmouth & Harvard
  • Leslie Wexner, OhioState
  • Daniel Gilbert, MSU & WayneState
  • Dennis Washington, none
  • Rupert Johnson, WashingtonLee
  • Charles Johnson, Yale
  • Travis Kalanick, UCLA
  • Whitney MacMillan, Yale
  • Jerral Jones, UArkansas
  • Henry Kravis, Columbia
  • Dannine Avara, none
  • Randa Duncan-Williams, Rice & UHouston
  • Milane Frantz, none
  • Scott Duncan, none
  • George Roberts, ClaremontCollege & UCHastings
  • Robert Kraft, Columbia & Harvard
  • Ralph Lauren, CCNY
  • Daniel Ziff, Columbia
  • Robert Ziff, Harvard & Cornell
  • Dirk Ziff, Columbia & Harvard
  • David Shaw, UCSD & Stanford
  • Israel Englander, NYU
  • John Sall, Beloit & NorthernIllinois
  • Reinhold Schmieding, MSU
  • Tom Love, none
  • Ray Hunt, SMU
  • Trevor Rees-Jones, Dartmouth & SMU
  • Mark Shoen, none
  • Nancy Walton-Laurie, UArkansas
  • Tamara Hughes-Gustavson, USC
  • Edward Roski Jr., USC
  • John Tu, UDarmstadt
  • David Sun, UTaTung
  • John Doerr, Rice & Harvard
  • George Lucas, USC

$4 billion to $4.9 billion:

  • Charles Butt, UPenn
  • David Duffield, Cornell
  • Paul Jones, UVirginia
  • Mitchell Rales, MiamiU
  • Steven Rales, DePauw & AmericanU
  • Frederick Smith, Yale
  • Ronda Stryker, UNColorado & WesternMichigan
  • James Davis, Middlebury
  • Andres Santo Domingo, Brown
  • Sheldon Solow, none
  • Leonard Stern, NYU
  • Alejandro Santo Domingo, Harvard
  • Jeremy Jacobs, Harvard
  • Samuel Zell, UMichigan
  • Rocco Commisso, Columbia
  • Leandro Rizzuto, StJohns & NYU
  • Jeffrey Skoll, UToronto & Stanford
  • Terrence Pegula, PennState
  • Thomas Frist Jr., Vanderbilt & UWashington
  • Stanley Druckenmiller, Bowdoin
  • Robert Rich Jr., Williams & URochester
  • Jeffrey Hildebrand, UTexas
  • Karen Pritzker, Northwestern
  • Ira Rennert, BrooklynC & NYU
  • Ronald Lauder, Wharton
  • Ben Ashkenazi, none
  • Stephen Bisciotti, SalisburyState
  • Winfred Johnson-Marquart, none
  • Phillip Frost, UPenn
  • Bernard Marcus, Rutgers
  • Martha Ingram, Vassar
  • Clayton Mathile, OhioNorthernU
  • Douglas Meijer, none
  • Hendrik Meijer, UMichigan
  • Helen Johnson-Leipold, Cornell
  • S. Curtis Johnson III, Cornell & Northwestern
  • Herbert Fisk Johnson, Cornell
  • John Morris, Drury
  • Walter Scott Jr., ColoradoState
  • Kelcy Warren, UTexasArlington
  • James Jannard, none
  • Kenneth Fisher, HumboldtState

$3.5 billion to $3.9 billion:

  • Donald Trump, Fordham & UPenn
  • Diane Hendricks, none
  • Robert Murphy, Stanford
  • Evan Spiegel, Stanford
  • Isaac Perlmutter, none
  • Jerry Speyer, Columbia
  • Steven Spielberg, CalStateLongBeach
  • Archie Emmerson, none
  • Mary Malone, UArizona
  • Arthur Blank, Babson
  • Igor, Olenicoff, USC
  • Steven Udvar-Hazy, UCLA
  • John Catsimatidis, NYU
  • George Lindemann, UPenn
  • Randal Kirk, RadfordU & UVirginia
  • Jeff Greene, JohnsHopkins & Harvard
  • Harry Stine, McPherson
  • Judith Faulkner, Dickinson & UWisconsin
  • Richard Schulze, none
  • J.B. Pritzker, Duke & Northwestern
  • Rodger Riney, UMissouri
  • Mark Cuban, IndianaU
  • Daniel Friedkin, none
  • Anthony Pritzker, Dartmouth & UChicago
  • Michael Miliken, UCBerkeley & UPenn
  • Jack Dangermond, CalStatePoly & UMinnesota
  • Michael Moritz, Oxford & UPenn
  • Brian Chesky, RISchoolDesign
  • Nathan Blecharczyk, Harvard
  • Joseph Gebbia, RISchoolDesign

$3 billion to $3.4 billion:

  • Tom Gores, MSU
  • David Filo, Tulane & Stanford
  • Amos Hostetter, Amherst & Harvard
  • Julian Robertson, UNC
  • B. Francis Saul II, Villanova & UPenn
  • Russell Weiner, SanDiegoState
  • Donald Sterling, CalStateLA & SouthwesternU
  • Andreas Bechtolsheim, CarnegieMellon & Stanford
  • John Overdeck, Stanford
  • David Siegel, Princeton & MIT
  • Marc Benioff, USC
  • Edward Johnson IV, Northeastern
  • O. Andreas Halvorsen, Williams & Stanford
  • Leon Cooperman, Hunter & Columbia
  • Barry Diller, none
  • Marc Rowan, UPenn
  • Joshua Harris UPenn & Harvard
  • Jeff Sutton, UPenn
  • Kenneth Langone, Bucknell & NYU
  • B. Thomas Golisano, AlfredState
  • David Rubinstein, Duke & UChicago
  • Daniel D’Aniello, Syracuse & Harvard
  • Anita Zucker, UFlorda, UNFlorida
  • Donald Cathy, Samford
  • Dan Cathy, GeorgiaSouthern
  • Jorge Perez, CWPost & UMichigan
  • Edward Debartolo Jr., NotreDame
  • Herbert Simon, CCNY
  • Marian Ilitch, none
  • John Brown, Auburn
  • J. Christopher Reyes, UMaryland
  • M. Jude Reyes, Wofford
  • Thomas Pritzker, ClaremontCollege & UChicago
  • Neil Bluhm, UIllinois & Northwestern
  • Lynn Schusterman, none
  • Sid Bass, Yale & Stanford
  • Tilman Fertitta, UHouston
  • John Arnold, Vanderbilt
  • John Paul DeJoria, none
  • Bennett Dorrance, UArizona
  • Stephen Wynn, UPenn
  • Haim Saban, none
  • Oprah Winfrey, TennesseeState
  • Douglas Leone, Cornell & Columbia & MIT
  • Brian Acton, UPenn & Stanford
  • Scott Cook, USC & Harvard
  • Thomas Siebel, UIllinois
  • Dagmar Dolby, Cambridge
  • Stephen Bechtel Jr., Purdue & Stanford
  • Riley Bechtel, UCDavis & Stanford
  • David Cheriton, UBC & UWaterloo
  • Robert Pera, UCSD
  • Charles Bundrant, none
  • Howard Schultz, NorthernMichiganU’s Ranking of the Top Schools for Becoming Super-Rich

What follows is the ranking of America’s ten best colleges and universities for becoming super-rich along with the number of tri-billionaires associated with those schools (tri-billionaires being those whose wealth is at least $3 billion). Schools with the same number of tri-billionaires are considered tied, which means that Stanford and UPenn are tied as are Cornell and USC as well as Princeton, MIT, and UCBerkeley. In fact, because we calculated a tie for the schools in the 9th thru 11th spots, our “top ten” ranking is technically a “top eleven” ranking.

1. Harvard University [25 tri-billionaires]

2-3. Stanford University [17 tri-billionaires]

2-3. University of Pennsylvania [17 tri-billionaires]

4. Columbia University [10 tri-billionaires]

5. New York University [9 tri-billionaires]

6. Yale University [7 tri-billionaires]

7-8. Cornell University [6 tri-billionaires]

7-8. University of Southern California [6 tri-billionaires]

9-11. Princeton University [4 tri-billionaires]

9-11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology [4 tri-billionaires]

9-11. University of California, Berkeley [4 tri-billionaires]

This ranking requires a few honorable mentions. In fact, there were a total of 8 schools that had exactly 4 tri-billionaires, thus technically putting them in a tie with Princeton, MIT, and UCBerkeley. These additional 5 schools were UMichigan, MSU, UArkansas, UChicago, and Northwestern. As noted in the introduction, UArkansas, UChicago, and Northwestern tended to have local affiliations, matriculating members of the same super-rich families. We therefore decided to exclude them from this top-ten list. As for the two Michigan schools, the mean and median wealth of their tri-billionaires was considerably less than that of Princeton, MIT, and UCBerkeley, so we decided to exclude them as well. Why Princeton out of alphabetical order and thus ahead of MIT and UCBerkeley? Two words: Jeff Bezos. Clearly, there’s a certain arbitrariness here at the lower end. Our data made reasonably good sense of a top-ten ranking for becoming super-rich, but less so for rankings of more schools.

Postscript: From Hereditary Wealth to Entrepreneurial Wealth

Scanning the billionaires on the list above shows that the majority of people on it gained their wealth not from inheritance but from creating immensely profitable business enterprises. The schools they attended therefore played a significant role in the wealth they attained. The shift from hereditary wealth to entrepreneurial wealth represents a big change in how wealth is distributed and achieved in our day. Fifty years ago, the American journalist Ferdinand Lundberg could write his mammoth The Rich and the Super-Rich (1968), in which he detailed how American wealth was controlled by a few powerful families who carefully guarded their wealth to keep it in those families. American wealth, as Lundberg described it, was primarily hereditary. Not any more. Wealth these days is overwhelmingly entrepreneurial.

Lundberg’s book is out of date, but its subtitle raises an important question for our time: Who Really Owns America? How Do They Keep Their Wealth and Power? The answer Lundberg gave, in terms of powerful and established families, no longer holds. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the rise of big tech create fortunes unprecedented both in size and with numbers. In other words, we’ve got some very rich people and there are (relatively speaking) a lot of them. So, are these big tech entrepreneurs the ones who really own American? Is it their technology that enables them to keep their wealth and power? A good place to begin answering such questions is Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.