Aug 11, 2011

Just the Facts—The Largest Endowments

A college “endowment” is basically the total value of an institution’s investments—property, stocks, and cash. It mostly comes from donations from rich alums and others, but grows with wise management.

Usually colleges use the interest from their endowment to cover worthy expenses like scholarships for students. A college with a huge endowment may be less concerned about getting 100% of tuition from every student and can afford to repair buildings or buy new technology.

Without putting too fine a point on things, the size of an endowment can be an indicator of the financial health of an institution. And not surprisingly, nearly all endowments in the country took hits after 2008.

As part of information requested by the Congress, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracks the endowment funds of colleges and universities throughout the country, with a focus is on the market value of the top 120.

The DC area is home to a number of colleges with endowments among the top 120 in the nation, including the University of Virginia (18), Johns Hopkins University (27), George Washington (44), Washington and Lee (57), Georgetown (58), William & Mary (112), and Virginia Tech (119). But none comes close to the more than $26 million stashed away by Harvard, which by the way lost 29.5 percent of its endowment between 2008 and 2009.

Top 25 endowment funds by rank order:

  1. Harvard University ($26,035,389)

  2. Yale University ($16,103,497)

  3. Princeton University ($13,386,280)

  4. Stanford University ($12,619,094)

  5. University of Texas System ($11,083,357)

  6. MIT ($7,982,021)

  7. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ($5,914,285)

  8. Columbia University ($5,892,798)

  9. University of Pennsylvania ($5,170,539)

  10. University of California System Administration ($4,977,483)

  11. University of Notre Dame ($4,920,742)

  12. Emory University ($4,601,488)

  13. University of Chicago ($4,535,633)

  14. Duke University ($4,440,745)

  15. Northwestern University ($4,398,200)

  16. Washington U in St. Louis ($4,147,461)

  17. Rice University ($3,665,267)

  18. University of Virginia, Charlottesville ($3,531,688)

  19. Cornell University ($3,071,987)

  20. Dartmouth College ($2,999,497)

  21. Vanderbilt University ($2,833,614)

  22. University of Southern California ($2,671,426)

  23. University of Texas at Austin ($2,383,866)

  24. New York University ($2,194,839)

  25. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities ($2,070,002)


  1. The official source for these figures is NACUBO. These figures are not only very stale (from 2009), but also inaccurate. Each and every number is wrong.

  2. The numbers provided in the article came directly from those collected and maintained by the federal government. They are the most recent available on the NCES website.

    The numbers collected and maintained by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)--a membership organization--are based on a voluntary survey and may be found at:

    Naturally, the accuracy depends on the quality of reporting to the respective organizations.