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 people).
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.
Other billionaire Penn alumni include Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, and casino magnate Steve Wynn. But school’s most famous grad these days is Donald Trump, who transferred to Penn after two years at Fordham University in the Bronx. He received an economics degree from the university’s famed Wharton School in 1968. His son, Donald Trump Jr., and daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, also attended Penn.
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|
|5||University of Southern California||11|
|8||University of Michigan||6|
|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||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|