General Education

The 5 U.S. Colleges with the Highest Endowments Per Student

The 5 U.S. Colleges with the Highest Endowments Per Student
If you can get in to any of these schools (at least as an undergraduate), you will almost certainly be able to afford to go. Image from Unsplash
Tom Meltzer profile
Tom Meltzer June 24, 2020

A large endowment per student means colleges can dedicate more funds to those attending, especially when it comes to financial aid.

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Colleges and universities cannot get by on tuition and fees alone. The most successful academic institutions have large endowments, investment portfolios that supplement the school’s income. By returning value on those investments, endowments provide funding that—believe it or not—keeps tuitions lower than they otherwise would have to be.

The schools listed below sit at the crest of Endowment Mountain. They have a lot of money and relatively few students on whom to spend it. As a result, these schools can afford to be especially generous with regard to financial aid. If you can get in to any of these schools (at least as an undergraduate), you will almost certainly be able to afford to go, because financial aid money is insanely generous.

Our source for the data below is the National Association of College and University Business Officers 2018 Study of Endowments.

__1. Princeton University

Princeton’s total endowment isn’t the highest; Harvard’s is, by some 12.5 billion dollars. However, Princeton has only about one-third as many students as Harvard does. Consequently, Princeton boasts some $500,000 more in available funds per student.

Endowment: $25.92 billion

Total enrollment: 8,184

Endowment per student: $3,166,813

__2. Yale University

It’s not much of a shocker that the top three schools on this list are in Ivy League. Yale’s endowment is a somewhat larger than Princeton’s but so is its enrollment. As a result, Yale clocks in at a very respectable second on this prestigious list.

Endowment: $29.35 billion

Total enrollment: 12,926

Endowment per student: $2,270,702

__3. Harvard University

Harvard owns the most gargantuan endowment in the country. To put its total endowment of $38.3 billion in perspective, Harvard’s endowment exceeds the gross domestic product of more than 100 nations. However, Harvard’s enrollment is also the largest on this list— so it’s only third in per-student endowment.

Endowment: $38.30 billion

Total enrollment: 20,970

Endowment per student: $1,826,580

__4. Stanford University

At $26.46 billion, Stanford boasts the third-largest university endowment in the United States, trailing only Harvard and Yale. Healthcare services, sponsored research, and return on endowment investments provide the bulk of Stanford’s massive portfolio. The school took in $1.1 billion in donations in fiscal 2019; it’s nice to have successful graduates.

Endowment: $26.46 billion

Total enrollment: 16,472

Endowment per student: $1,606,661

__5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s endowment is the only one on the list below $20 billion, but it’s smaller student body means that money can go further.

Endowment: $16.53 billion

Total enrollment: 11,276

Endowment per student: $1,465,895

In case you’re wondering, the other schools with endowment-per-student ratios exceeding $1 million include:

  • The Curtis Institute of Music ($1,461,756)
  • Pomona College ($1,373,841 )
  • Williams College ($1,319,411)
  • Amherst College ($1,294,955)
  • California Institute of Technology ($1,286,637)
  • Grinnell College ($1,186,892)
  • Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary ($1,176,056)
  • Fraklin W. Olin College of Engineering ($1,063,875)

If you want more information on financial aid opportunities, check out: How to Get More Financial Aid for College

About the Author

Tom Meltzer began his career in education publishing at The Princeton Review, where he authored more than a dozen titles (including the company's annual best colleges guide and two AP test prep manuals) and produced the musical podcast The Princeton Review Vocab Minute. A graduate of Columbia University (English major), Tom lives in Chapel Hill, NC.


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