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The 28 Schools That Mint The Most Billionaire Alumni – U of A (University of Arizona) #17 out of top 660.
Chase Peterson-Withorn , FORBES STAFF
Some universities are known for strong liberal arts programs, others might be top engineering schools. But a few excel at a more unique task: minting Forbes 400 members. As part of Forbes’ annual, outcomes-based ranking of the top 660 colleges in America, we looked at how many billionaires a school has produced (measured by the undergraduate alma maters of the nation’s 400 wealthiest individuals).
It might come as a surprise, but the school with the most billionaire alumni isn’t Harvard. It’s another Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia school educated 21 of the 406 people on last year’s Forbes 400 — about 5% of the list. (More than 400 people appeared on The Forbes 400 because of fortunes shared between multiple people, like brothers Hank and Doug Meijer.)
One notable Penn grad: Elon Musk. The PayPal cofounder and current CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX transferred from Queen’s University in Canada and paid his way through school in part by turning his house into a nightclub on weekends. Musk received economics and physics degrees, and went on to drop out of a physics PhD program at Stanford to found his first startup.
Harvard and Yale tie for the second-highest number of alumni on The Forbes 400, with 14 apiece. Harvard boasts one of the nation’s youngest billionaires, 32-year-old Airbnb cofounder Nathan Blecharczyk, who got a computer science degree at the school. Other Harvard grads include Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and David Rockefeller, the last-surviving grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. The university is just as famous for its dropouts as its graduates though, which include Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and the world’s richest man, Bill Gates.
Rival school Yale can thank Harvard for one of its most prominent alumni. Stephen Schwarzman, cofounder of private equity giant Blackstone Group, said his first choice was Harvard — but his application was rejected. He went to Yale instead (though he did end up getting an MBA from Harvard Business School afterwards). Last year Schwarzman told Bloomberg a former Harvard admissions dean later wrote him to say it was a mistake not admitting him. Other notable Yale graduates include FedEx founder Fred Smith and John and Forrest Mars, whose family’s Mars candy company owns brands like M&M’s and Snickers.
The fourth-biggest billionaire producer is Stanford, the west coast school that educated 13 Forbes 400 members. The university’s proximity to Silicon Valley is apparent: its alumni include a number of tech billionaires. Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel (who, at age 26, remains the youngest American billionaire) and Bobby Murphy met at the school’s Kappa Sigma frat house. The cofounder of messaging titan WhatsApp, Brian Acton, went to Stanford, as did LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman. A couple of prominent tech investors also once called the school home: Jim Breyer and Peter Thiel.
Another California school, the University of Southern California, has asserted itself as billionaire factory as well. Both Marc Benioff, who cofounded cloud computing firm Salesforce, and casino and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) magnate Frank Fertitta attended USC. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, studied at the university’s School of Cinematic Arts. In all 11 members of The Forbes 400 are USC graduates.
High-priced private schools aren’t the only path to making The Forbes 400, though. A few top public universities also boast numerous billionaire alumni. The University of Michigan has six, including Google cofounder Larry Page, while nearby Michigan State has four, including Quicken Loans and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Two University of California system schools also have a large number of ten-digit grads: UCLA (with five, including former Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio) and Berkeley (with four, including ex junk bond king Michael Milken).
Perhaps the most surprising finding: 108 of the 406 people on The Forbes 400 — more than a quarter of the list — never received a bachelor’s degree at all.
That category includes a couple of billionaires who received only associate’s degrees, including Paychex founder Tom Golisano, plus a small group of American billionaires who were educated outside of the U.S., including investor George Soros (who studied at the London School of Economics). Many were dropouts, like Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison and computer whiz Michael Dell.
Others never attended college, including Dole Foods CEO David Murdock, who left high school in the 9th grade and worked at a gas station before being drafted into World War II. Murdock was homeless and penniless when he returned, sometimes sleeping under a bush in a Detroit park. A good Samaritan helped him obtain a $1,200 loan to buy a local diner; he flipped it for a profit and began amassing a multi-billion dollar fortune.
See the full list of the top 28 schools below:
School / Number of Forbes 400 members
1 University of Pennsylvania 21
2 Harvard University 14
2 Yale University 14
4 Stanford University 13
5 University of Southern California 11
6 Cornell University 9
7 Princeton University 7
8 Columbia University 6
8 Dartmouth College 6
8 University of Michigan 6
11 Duke University 5
11 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5
11 University of California, Los Angeles 5
14 Michigan State University 4
14 New York University 4
14 University of California, Berkeley 4
17 Amherst College 3
17 Claremont McKenna College 3
17 Southern Methodist University 3
17 University of Arizona 3
17 University of Arkansas 3
17 University of California, San Diego 3
17 University of Denver 3
17 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 3
17 University of Maryland 3
17 University of Tennessee, Knoxville 3
17 University of Texas, Austin 3
17 University of Washington 3
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