The vast disparity in wealth in the United States applies to more than individuals and their private fortunes.

It’s also true of American higher education. It turns out that one-third of all the money in American higher education is controlled by just 10 colleges. That’s it. According to this CNN piece:

The wealth gap between the nation’s 40 richest colleges and universities and the rest is getting wider.

That’s thanks to strong investment returns and a tremendous fundraising advantage, according to credit rating agency Moodys.


And we’re talking about a really strong fundraising advantage, here.

The richest schools had average investment returns of 50% between 2009 and 2014. The top 40 also collected 59% of all donations made to the 500 schools during fiscal year 2014.

The result: About one third of the assets held by all colleges belong to the top 10 schools, and nearly two-thirds of the assets are held by the top 40 schools.

The top ten schools, in terms of assets:

  1. Harvard University — $42.8 billion
  2. University of Texas system — $36.7 B
  3. Stanford University — $31.6B
  4. University of California system — $28.6
  5. Yale University — $25.4B
  6. Princeton University — $21.3B
  7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — $15.2B
  8. University of Pennsylvania — $11.9B
  9. University of Michigan — $11.5B
  10. Duke University — $11.4B

It’s worth pointing out that there’s significant disparity even within this list. The University of Texas might count as one institution in terms of assets, but it’s really a gigantic network of different colleges, and enrolls 140,000 undergraduates. Harvard University, which is $6 billion richer, has only 6,700 undergraduate students.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer