The title is not strictly accurate of course, but if you have ambitions to become a billionaire, you should seriously consider where to study. Authoritative sources state that although there are now well over 1500 billionaires in the world, almost 300 of them, nearly 20%, were educated at just 20 universities. You will not be surprised to learn that only four of these seats of learning are outside of the USA, but there are still one or two surprises on this top 20 list, including the number one.
There is no definitive assessment of why exactly these universities are so relatively proficient in producing such subsequently high-flying graduates; obviously high-level teaching is paramount, as is networking among present and past students; also business schools, especially when adjacent to technology research and development facilities and industries, are likely to produce future high earners. Successful schools attract high-level applicants anyway – an average acceptance rate of just 30% by most noted universities means that incoming students are likely to be smart to begin with.
So the vast majority of these rich and/or influential people are in business, many technology-orientated, or finance, although education doesn’t explain all, especially when one of the richest and youngest billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, dropped-out of Harvard University without actually graduating – maybe two-thirds of a Harvard degree is worth more than a full degree from most other institutions!? Major investor, shareholder Carl Icahn with over $22 billion actually dropped-out of New York University prior to graduation.
The following is a list of the top 20 billionaire-producing institutions, with notable graduates: the list is open to debate, as many persons’ net worth varies dramatically according to the often day-to-day volatility of the value of shares held.
- 1 20. Eth Zurich in Switzerland
- 2 19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- 3 17. Brown University
- 4 17. Columbia University
- 5 15. Duke University
- 6 15. New York University
- 7 12. Michigan University
- 8 12. Dartmouth College
- 9 12. University of Texas
- 10 10. Moscow State University
- 11 10. London School of Economics (LSE)
- 12 8. University of Mumbai
- 13 8. University of California, Berkeley
- 14 5. Stanford
- 15 5. Cornell University
- 16 5. Princeton
- 17 4. University of Southern California (USC)
- 18 3. Yale
- 19 2. Harvard
- 20 1. University of Pennsylvania
20. Eth Zurich in Switzerland
Eth Zurich in Switzerland has produced six billionaires to date, including developer of the first micro-chip for computing Philippe Kahn, with an estimated net worth of over $2 billion, but he doesn’t seem to worry too much about his current bank balance!
19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
It may be surprising that with its reputation for technology education and innovative research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with just seven billionaires, doesn’t rank higher. However, one graduate does rank in the top 10 richest in the world – chemical engineer David Koch with $42 billion.
17. Brown University
Brown University with eight billionaires is also ranked highly, particularly as one of its graduates is Janet Yellen, not a billionaire, but the first female to head the US Federal Reserve, and ranked as the seventh most influential person – fourth woman – in the world by Forbes magazine. She also has a PhD in economics from Yale! Perhaps not so coincidentally, the current Head of the World Bank – American Jim Yong Kim – is also a Brown graduate, but at the top of the board is John D. Rockefeller, estimated by many to have been one of the three richest persons in history.
17. Columbia University
Joint eighth with eight billionaires is Columbia University. Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and worth over $4 billion, is a graduate, and Warren Buffett – one of the three richest people in the world – obtained a MSc in economics here in 1951.
15. Duke University
Among Duke University’s nine billionaires is Melinda Gates, ($70 billion estimated) while one of its now notorious graduates is ex-US President Richard Nixon. On the other hand, Arkady Dvorkovich, Deputy PM of Russia, is also a PhD graduate from Duke.
15. New York University
12. Michigan University
Michigan University has now produced 10 billionaires, with Google founder Larry Page ($30 billion) being one of them.
12. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College also has 10 billionaires to its credit, with Leon Black, the founder of Apollo Global Management being among them, currently on $5 billion.
12. University of Texas
Third on 10 is the University of Texas, with Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers, perhaps one of the better known and richer billionaires with a fortune approaching $20 billion.
10. Moscow State University
Moscow State University has so far produced 11 billionaires, the most from Russian institutions, although education is perhaps not as important as ‘who you know’ when business success is calculated in that country. One undoubted successful graduate is Margarita Louis-Dreyfus (nee Bogdanova) owner of the French but Amsterdam-based Louis-Dreyfus Group since her husband’s death, with $8.8 billion. She also owns French soccer club Olympique de Marseille, and lives in Switzerland.
10. London School of Economics (LSE)
On the same ranking is the London School of Economics (LSE), with their 11 billionaires including renowned investor George Soros, who currently boasts a fortune of over $25 billion, and the equally world-renowned Mick Jagger, perpetual leader of The Rolling Stones rock group, but with an estimated net worth of ‘only’ $300 million.
8. University of Mumbai
The University of Mumbai has produced 12 billionaires and is clearly the leading educational institution in India. The richest is Yemeni-born Mukesh Ambani, the largest shareholder, chairman and CEO of India’s second most valuable company, Reliance Industries Limited, a Fortune Global 500 company, with over $20 billion in personal assets.
8. University of California, Berkeley
Alongside at 12 billionaires is the University of California, Berkeley, which can be credited with producing both Alphabet/Google CEO Eric Schmidt ($9 billion net worth), and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who perhaps cashed-in his company chips too early.
There are three universities at 14 billionaires; Stanford from which Phil Knight – who has chaired Nike since founding the company in the mid-60s, and whose fortune now approaches $30 billion – graduated from the School of Business in 1962.
5. Cornell University
Cornell University is the alma mater of Robert D. Ziff, one of the 14 billionaires, who inherited part of the family publishing business in the mid-90s, and has since built his share through investments to a very healthy $5 billion plus.
The third is Princeton, with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos being one of the 14 billionaires, now managing a fortune well over $40 billion, putting him close to the top 10 richest people in the world.
4. University of Southern California (USC)
The University of Southern California (USC) has 16 billionaires on its alumni, including leading film director/producer George Lucas, of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” fame, whose net worth is over $5 billion.
Unsurprisingly, Yale is in the top three with 20 billionaires, of whom Stephen A. Schwarzman, the global private equity and financial advisory firm Blackstone Group’s chairman and CEO, is probably the richest with over $12 billion.
Harvard just pips Yale with 22 billionaires, one of whom is Jorge Paulo Leman, the richest Brazilian with $25 billion accumulated partly through investment banking company Banco Garantia.
1. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania with 25 billionaires is perhaps a surprise in the top spot. Probably the most famous – or infamous – alumni right now is Donald Trump ($4 billion), real estate magnate and would-be US Presidential candidate. However, engineer, inventor, investor South African-born Elon Musk is likely the richest at the moment, with an amount approaching $12 billion.