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The 10 richest schools in America

Enjoy state-of-the art facilities and generous financial aid packages at these well-endowed universities.

Some of the most expensive schools in the country might actually cost less to attend after you get your financial aid package. That’s because well-endowed universities have the means to offer need-based funding to all students. But these schools also tend to have some of the most competitive admissions in the country.

Top 10 most-endowed universities in the US

1Harvard University$35,665,743
2Yale University$25,413,149
3University of Texas$23,861,771
4Stanford University$22,398,130
5Princeton University$21,703,488
6Massachusetts Institute of Technology$13,181,515
7University of Pennsylvania$10,715,364
8Texas A&M University$9,858,672
9University of Michigan, Ann Arbor$9,600,640
10Columbia University$9,041,027

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

What’s a university endowment?

A university endowment is funding private individuals donate to the school. The school can use their endowment to fund scholarships and grants, student facilities and other expenses.

Often, they also invest part of their endowments to generate more income. Schools with larger endowments tend to have more generous financial aid packages and can eliminate your need to take out loans.

1. Harvard University

  • Average annual cost: $14,327
  • Average student debt: $6,100
  • Acceptance rate: 4.5%
  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

It should come as no surprise that the top university in the US also has the top endowment. Over 13,000 individuals have invested in this fund — which is more than three times as large as the last school on this list.

Harvard offers some of the most generous financial aid packages out there — spending $414 million on financial aid annually. It meets 100% of financial need for all admitted students, meaning graduates leave with less than a quarter of the national average for student debt.

Harvard scholarships, grants and student loans

2. Yale University

  • Average annual cost: $18,627
  • Average student debt: $12,000
  • Acceptance rate: 5.91%
  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Yale might have the second-largest endowment, but this fund has grown at a faster pace than Harvard’s in recent years. Most of these are gifts, though a quarter of the funds are investments that Yale treats like endowments.

Like Harvard, Yale meets 100% of students’ financial needs. In addition to funding financial aid packages, the university also uses its endowment to fund the library, its athletics teams and professional programs such as Yale Law School.

Yale scholarships, grants and student loans

3. University of Texas

  • Average annual cost: $3,901 to $16,960
  • Average student debt: $10,054 to $21,990
  • Acceptance rate: 48.5% for in-state applicants, 25.9% for out-of-state applicants
  • Location: Eight cities throughout Texas

While the University of Texas might have one of the largest endowments, its large student population makes it impossible to meet 100% of students’ financial needs. Nearly 240,000 students are enrolled at the university, which spans 14 institutions. In comparison, Harvard only has just over 36,000 students.

Financial aid packages vary depending on the school you attend. Students at UT Austin might pay nearly $17,000 out of pocket, while UT Rio Grande Valley students pay just under $4,000 per year.

4. Stanford University

  • Average annual cost: $13,261
  • Average student debt: $11,447
  • Acceptance rate: 4.3%
  • Location: Stanford, California

Like its Ivy League cousins, Stanford’s endowment is large enough to allow it to meet 100% of all student’s financial need. In fact, it makes more income from its endowments than students. Donors contribute to the university’s more than 8,000 endowed funds, many of which have restrictions on how the funds are used — like for financial aid or to support teaching and research.

Stanford scholarships, grants and student loans

5. Princeton University

  • Average annual cost: $9,327
  • Average student debt: $7,500
  • Acceptance rate: 5.77%
  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton might fall several places behind Harvard when it comes to endowment, not to mention a higher cost of attendance. But students pay less out of pocket per year — and only take on slightly more in student loans. Like most of the schools on this list, it meets 100% of students’ financial needs. In fact, over 80% of recent graduates had no student debt at all.

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Average annual cost: $20,771
  • Average student debt: $17,125
  • Acceptance rate: 6.6%
  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

MIT might cost a little more out of pocket than other universities of similar caliber. Roughly 60% of MIT students get need-based financial aid, and only 30% of the student body receives enough aid to cover tuition.

But it also has a high return on investment — the average salary of MIT graduates within 10 years of leaving school tops six figures. MIT also invests a lot of these endowment funds into the facilities needed to support one of the top STEM programs in the world.

MIT scholarships, grants and student loans

7. University of Pennsylvania

  • Average annual cost: $24,242
  • Average student debt: $12,988
  • Acceptance rate: 7.44%
  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

UPenn’s endowment is smaller than its Ivy League counterparts, though it still covers up to 100% of students’ financial needs. However, only 20% of its endowment goes toward financial aid. The majority of it is used to fund teaching instruction, while healthcare, academic support, research and libraries also rely on donor funding.

8. Texas A&M University

  • Average annual cost: $4,884 to $20,282
  • Average student debt: $14,200 to $22,810
  • Acceptance rate: 70%
  • Location: Texas

Another Texas university system makes this list. And like its public counterpart, its large student body of 64,882 — nearly twice the size of Harvard’s — means fewer students can access funding. While its students receive around $810 million in financial aid, it doesn’t fully meet all financial need.

9. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • Average annual cost: $14,860
  • Average student debt: $19,153
  • Acceptance rate: 23.5%
  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

UMich Ann Arbor is the only individual public school to make it on this list alone. Students pay roughly the same amount per year as Harvard attendees, though they end up with about three times as much student debt. Just over 50% of students receive grants and scholarships as financial aid.

10. Columbia University

  • Average annual cost: $24,231
  • Average student debt: $21,406
  • Acceptance rate: 5.1%
  • Location: New York, New York

Columbia University meets 100% of students’ financial needs and waives fees for families earning less than $60,000 annually. Like most other schools on this list, its aid program doesn’t include loans. Its students still end up with student debt loads on the higher end of this list — though well below the national average.

Can I get in?

It depends on where you apply. But most of the schools on this list are highly selective, and not just because of their financial aid programs. Generally, you need to be at the top of your class, have high test scores and robust extracurriculars to get into top schools — and even then, that might not be enough.

Only 4.5% of applicants were accepted to Harvard’s class of 2023. Yale typically accepts around 6% of applicants. Schools like UT Austin are slightly more forgiving, especially if you live in-state. Talk to your school’s guidance counselor to learn how to maximize your changes of getting accepted.

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Bottom line

Looking at a school’s endowment can be a better indicator for how much aid you’ll receive — as well as the quality of instruction and facilities. But it’s not the only factor to consider when picking a college, especially since many of the schools on this list are highly competitive.

You can learn more about how to fund your degree by visiting our guide to student loans.

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