By Kenrick Cai
American universities dominate, but it’s not all Ivy Leaguers on the 2021 World’s Billionaires list.
The 2,755 people on Forbes’ 2021 World’s Billionaires list received their undergraduate degrees all over the world, from Al-Azhar University in Egypt to the Zhejiang University of Technology in China. Hundreds did not attend college at all, or left before obtaining a diploma, including a pair of Harvard dropouts who are among the five richest people in the world: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
But among the billionaires who completed their undergraduate education, a few schools stand out. Harvard leads the way, with at least 29 billionaire alumni on the Forbes list. (We found information about the undergraduate education of a majority, but not all, of the list members.) Four other Ivy League universities make the top ten. Nine of these ten schools are located in the United States—MIT and a trio of California schools round out the American colleges—although their alumni hold diverse citizenship, from Colombia to Ireland to the Philippines. The lone non-U.S. school? The University of Mumbai, a public university in India that is one of the largest colleges in the world by enrollment. Just missing the cut are South Korea’s Seoul National University and China’s Tsinghua University.
Here are the ten colleges with the most billionaire undergraduate alumni, based on education data collected by Forbes; net worths are as of March 5, 2021.
#1 | Harvard University
LOCATION: CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
TOTAL NET WORTH: $207 BILLION
Harvard Yard served as stomping grounds for the highest number of billionaire graduates of any school. Of its 29 billionaires, 17 amassed their fortunes in the finance and investment industry, including the college’s three newcomers to the World’s Billionaires list: Bitcoin twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. But Harvard’s two richest undergraduate alumni hail from other sectors. Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s $68.7 billion fortune stems from his time at the helm of Microsoft, while Brazilian investment banker Jorge Paulo Lemann owes his $16.9 billion net worth to smart dealmaking in the food and beverage industry—his firm’s portfolio includes stakes in Anheuser-Busch InBev and Kraft Heinz.
#2 (tie) | University of Pennsylvania
TOTAL NET WORTH: $284.8 BILLION
More than half of Penn’s billionaire alumni received their undergraduate degrees from the famed Wharton School. The Philadelphia institution was a launching pad for two of today’s noisiest billionaires: former president Donald Trump and Elon Musk, whose stakes in Tesla and SpaceX helped him rise to the number two spot on the World’s Billionaires list. The university’s two new billionaires this year are Lance Gokongwei, the CEO of Filipino conglomerate JG Summit, and venture capitalist Gary Lauder, whose fortune stems from cosmetics empire Estée Lauder, which his grandmother founded. Philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, who graduated in 1985, is set to speak at the university’s commencement ceremony in May.
#2 (tie) | Stanford University
LOCATION: STANFORD, CALIFORNIA
TOTAL NET WORTH: $124.4 BILLION
A breeding ground for startups, Stanford is the alma mater of more newly minted billionaires this year than any other school. The school’s eight newcomers comprise the founders of Carvana, DoorDash, Nubank, Robinhood and Zillow—all technology or tech-adjacent companies. They include Colombian David Velez, who built Nubank into the most valuable digital bank in the world, as well as Baiju Bhattand Bulgaria-born Vlad Tenev, whose no-commission trading platform Robinhood was at the center of the GameStop short squeeze in January and February. Another Stanford grad, Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang, was elected to chair the university’s board of trustees and will begin his term later this year.
#4 | Yale University
LOCATION: NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
TOTAL NET WORTH: $140.8 BILLION
Yale’s undergraduate alumni include candy heirs John, Valerie and Victoria Mars, as well as oil heirs Lee, Edward, Robert and Sid Bass. In 2018, Edward Bass made a $160 million gift to the university to renovate its Peabody Museum. Other notable billionaires who graduated from the New Haven, Connecticut college include Alibaba cofounder and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of investment firm Blackstone. Yale’s newest billionaire is Paul Sciarra, who crossed the 10-figure mark after shares in Pinterest, the image sharing app he cofounded in 2010, soared over the past year.
#5 | Mumbai University
LOCATION: MUMBAI, INDIA
TOTAL NET WORTH: $162.8 BILLION
One of the largest universities in the world by enrollment, Mumbai University is the only non-U.S. institution to crack the top ten. All but four of its billionaire alumni inherited their fortune, including Asia’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who runs Reliance Industries, a conglomerate with interests in oil and gas, petrochemicals and telecommunications. Mukesh Ambani and his brother Anil inherited assets from their father but Mukesh has greatly expanded the fortune; he ranks No. 10 on the 2021 list. Exceptions include the next richest Mumbai alumnus, Uday Kotak, who founded and runs one of India’s largest banks in the private sector.
#6 | Cornell University
LOCATION: ITHACA, NEW YORK
TOTAL NET WORTH: $65.1 BILLION
Cornell’s diverse billionaire alumni include former Citigroup head Sandy Weill, the namesake of the university’s medical school, private equity titan Robert F. Smith, for whom the chemical engineering school was named in 2016 (more recently, Smith became embroiled in the largest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history), and software entrepreneur David Duffield, who gave $5 million last year to establish a scholarship fund for undergraduate engineering students struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic. One notable graduate who is not among the World’s Billionaires: Chuck Feeney, the former billionaire who gave away the entirety of his $8 billion fortune, including nearly $1 billion in gifts to his alma mater. Cornell’s lone newcomer to the list this year is Robert Langer, a famed scientist who got rich thanks to a 3% stake in biotech firm Moderna.
#7 | University of Southern California
LOCATION: LOS ANGELES
TOTAL NET WORTH: $58.5 BILLION
The Los Angeles university’s billionaires include two filmmakers who graduated from its School of Cinematic Arts: Star Wars creator George Lucas and Brazilian director Walter Salles, an heir to one of his home country’s oldest banking families. The richest USC alumnus is Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud giant Salesforce, worth $8.4 billion—though his net worth is edged out by the combined $10.5 billion fortune of the Public Storage family: B. Wayne Hughes, who cofounded the company in 1972, and his children Tamara Gustavon and B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. In 2019, the elder Hughes was revealed to have been the source of nearly $400 million in anonymous donations to the university reportedly between 2010 and 2015.
#8 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
LOCATION: CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
TOTAL NET WORTH: $104 BILLION
Half of MIT’s billionaires inherited their fortunes, including Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch and brother William Koch, who sold his stake in the company in 1983 to Charles and their late brother David. Charles and David Koch vastly expanded Koch Industries, the oil and coal conglomerate they inherited from their father Fred Koch. Self-made billionaires include mathematician Jim Simons, whose $24.6 billion fortune comes from founding hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, as well Dropbox cofounder and CEO Drew Houston. Trending technologies have added three billionaires to MIT’s tally: biotech, in the case of BeiGene CEO John Oyler, and cryptocurrency for both Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded crypto firms Alameda Research and FTX, and Internet bubble-era billionaire Michael Saylor, who regained his billionaire status after two decades thanks to lucrative investments in bitcoin.
#9 (tie) | Princeton University
LOCATION: PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY
TOTAL NET WORTH: $288.4 BILLION
Princeton rounds out the Ivy League’s dominance of the top ten. Despite having 18 fewer billionaire alumni than first-place Harvard, the $288.4 billion combined net worth of Princeton’s super-rich graduates dwarfs that of any other university. That’s largely because Harvard’s two richest attendees (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg) dropped out, while Princeton’s two richest—Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott—both stuck around to get their degrees. Bezos and Scott are worth a combined $230 billion—meaning they make up 80% of Princeton’s total billionaire alumni wealth. Other billionaires who graduated from Princeton include Gap retail heirs John, Robert and William Fisher, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who gave an undisclosed amount to the university two years ago to construct a new computer science building that is set to be completed in 2026.
#9 (tie) | University of California, Berkeley
LOCATION: BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA
TOTAL NET WORTH: $82.6 BILLION
California’s flagship public university gained two new billionaires in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic. Harvard biology professor Timothy Springer, like Cornell alumnus Robert Langer, got rich thanks to his stake in vaccine maker Moderna. Meanwhile, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu took his food delivery startup public in late 2020 after the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders supercharged demand for takeout. Like Springer and Xu, most of Berkeley’s billionaires amassed their fortunes from technology and biotech, including Silicon Valley bankroller Masayoshi Son, who is worth $45.4 billion, and Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, worth $12.1 billion.
Editor’s note, April 14, 2021: This article has been updated. It originally erroneously listed University of Mumbai with 21 billionaire alumni; the university has 20 billionaire alumni that Forbes could find.