These Are the Best Schools for Becoming a Billionaire

Personal Finance
You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.
harvard_grad_splash_750x420px

News flash—billionaires are smarter than you or I.

That’s the takeaway from a new study released by Duke University this month analyzing the ultra-wealthy and connected attendees of the Davos World Economic Forum. The research flies in the face of the popular image of whiz-kids dropping out of college and building a billion-dollar business from the back of their garage.

“The U.S. media has used billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as examples illustrating why completing college is not necessary for success, when in fact they are the exception to the rule,” study author Jonathan Wai writes.

The study shows “the importance of education and cognitive ability in being able to attain a position in the global elite.” About a third of billionaires went to elite schools around the world, with a large number attaining degrees in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The study also suggests that the modern uber-wealthy work hard to get and stay there.

“As (former WSJ reporter Robert) Frank puts it: ‘The idle rich are being replaced by the workaholic wealthy,’” Wai writes.

“I think we should deeply consider the implications when a select group of scary smart people also tend to hold a disproportionate share of global wealth and power,” Wai told CNBC. “We depend on these people to make wise decisions for all of us. ”

The results mirror a study published last year by Wealth-X that maps out which of the world’s universities produce the most billionaires and “ultra high net wealth” individuals—that is, those with $30 million or more in assets. The vast majority of the fortunes made by these wealthy alumni had been self-made.

Here are the universities ranked by the most billionaire alumni, according to Wealth-X. But a billionaire count does not a university make. Those merely boasting alumni with “ultra high net wealth,” or UHNW, of $30 million or more are also noted, along with the percentage of self-made wealth:

1. Harvard University

Number of billionaire alumni: 52        Total billionaire wealth: $205 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 2,964      Total UHNW wealth: $622 billion

Self-made wealth: 74%

Image: LibraryGroover/Flickr: Source.

2.  University of Pennsylvania

 

Number of billionaire alumni: 28        Total billionaire wealth: $112 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 1,502      Total UHNW wealth: $242 billion

Self-made wealth: 69%

Image: Kevin83002/Wikimedia Commons: Source.

3. Stanford University

 

Number of billionaire alumni: 27        Total billionaire wealth: $76 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 1,174      Total UHNW wealth: $171 billion

Self-made wealth: 71%

Image: cytech/Flickr: Source.

4. New York University

NYC - New York University - French and Deutsch Houses.jpg

Number of billionaire alumni: 17        Total billionaire wealth: $68 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 828         Total UHNW wealth: $110 billion

Self-made wealth: 74%

Image: Jean-Christophe Benoist/Wikimedia Commons: Source.

5. Columbia University

Low Library Columbia University 8-11-06.jpg

Number of billionaire alumni: 15        Total billionaire wealth: $96 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 889         Total UHNW wealth: $116 billion

Self-made wealth: 66%

Image: BrOnXbOmBr21/Wikimedia Commons: Source.

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

Number of billionaire alumni: 15        Total billionaire wealth: $114 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 581         Total UHNW wealth:  $172 billion

Self-made wealth: 65%

Image: 6SN7/Flickr: Source.

7.  Cornell University

Cornell Law School.JPG

Number of billionaire alumni: 14        Total billionaire wealth: $35 billion

Number of UHNW alumni:  528        Total UHNW wealth:  $60 billion

Self-made wealth: 66%

Image: Eustress/Wikimedia Commons: Source.

8. University of Southern California

Number of billionaire alumni: 14        Total billionaire wealth: $32 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 374            Total UHNW wealth: $66 billion

Self-made wealth: 55%

Image: ironypoisoning/Flickr: Source.

9. Yale University

Sterling Memorial Library.JPG

Number of billionaire alumni: 13        Total billionaire wealth: $77 billion

Number of UHNW alumni: 568            Total UHNW wealth: $125 billion

Self-made wealth: 63%

Image: Public domain via Creative Commons

10. University of Cambridge

Number of billionaire alumni: 11         Total billionaire wealth: $48 billion

Number of UHNW alumni:  361            Total UHNW wealth:  $93 billion

Self-made wealth: 70%

Image: jamesrbowe/Flickr: Source.


We want to know your thoughts on this article.  Meet us over on FacebookTwitter, or Google+ to join the conversation!