No. 1 Harvard University
Want your kid to become one of the richest people in the world? Send them to Harvard.
The Cambridge, Mass., school tops our first-ever billionaire college study with an alumni base that features 54 10-figure titans, more than 5% of the world’s billionaires. Of those 54 plutocrats, 11 received an undergraduate degree, 41 earned a master’s, doctorate or juris doctorate, and two earned two degrees.
Harvard’s 10-figure grads include Philip Falcone, who studied economics, John Paulson, who earned his M.B.A. there, and hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who began trading from his dorm room while an undergrad before creating money management outfit Citadel in 1990.
Bruce Kovner earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard. He later dropped out of the Ph.D. program at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, studied harpsichord at Juilliard and drove a New York City taxi, all before founding hedge fund Caxton Associates.
Famous Harvard dropouts include Microsoft ( MSFT – news – people ) co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, who ranked 321st on the most recent Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion.
Harvard’s hall of billionaires is more than double that of Stanford, which grabbed the second-place spot with 25 10-figure alumni, including Jerry Yang, who started Yahoo! ( YHOO – news – people ) with David Filo as a graduate student at Stanford.
The University of Pennsylvania was third, with 18 billionaires, 14 of them graduates of the university’s famous Wharton business school. Among them: Steven Cohen, Ronald Perelman and Ronald Lauder.
Columbia tied with Yale for fourth place on the list, each graduating 16 billionaires. Rounding out the list: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (11 billionaires), Northwestern University (10), the University of Chicago (10), Cornell University (9), University of California, Berkeley (9), University of Southern California (9) and University of Texas, Austin (9).
Several billionaires have studied at two top schools. Buyout billionaire Wilbur Ross Jr. is one of 16 Yale alumni. He also earned an M.B.A. from Harvard. Junk bond king Michael Milken earned his bachelor’s degree from Berkeley before getting his M.B.A. from Wharton. James Simons, of Renaissance Technologies, studied mathematics at MIT before earning his doctorate from Berkeley.
To the joy of eager fundraisers–but, perhaps, to the chagrin of their children–many billionaires give a large portion of their fortunes back to their alma maters. John Kluge donated $400 million to Columbia in 2007, one of the largest single gifts ever to an American university. Kluge, who was the world’s richest man from 1989 to 1992, earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia in economics.
Nike ( NKE – news – people ) co-founder Philip Knight earmarked $105 million for the Knight Management Center at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he earned his M.B.A.
David Koch donated $100 million to MIT in 2007; the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research will open in 2010.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need a degree from Harvard or Stanford to become a billionaire. Of last year’s Forbes 400, at least 46 billionaires did not have a college degree.