Where the Wealthy Go to School

If you graduated from a private, Ivy League school in the U.S., congratulations, you have a better chance of being worth more than $30 million. And if you’re a financial adviser seeking to build up or build out your client list with wealthy individuals, pay attention to these findings.

Research firm Wealth-X compiled a list of schools that produce millionaires and billionaires. They looked at alumni and checked where they graduated from, and whether they inherited, were self-made, or both. The firm then ranked the schools according to how many ultra-high-net-worth individuals — people with more than $30 million in assets — each school had among its graduates.

The results aren’t too surprising at first blush. Harvard University dominates the list, and all but five of the 20 schools with the most millionaire alumni are private.

Harvard counts some 2,964 high-net-worth graduates. That’s nearly twice the number of the next ranking college, the University of Pennsylvania, with 1,502.

Rounding out the top five were Stanford University (1,174), Columbia University (889) and New York University (828). The Bulldogs may have the upper hand against the Crimson on the football field, but Yale University came in at no. 8 with 568, behind Cornell and Princeton.

The public universities on the list were the University of Virginia (no. 11 with 499), the University of California, Berkeley (no. 14 with 447), the University of Michigan (no. 15, 470) and three colleges outside the U.S.: Oxford (no. 16, with 401) the University of Mumbai (no. 18, 372) and the University of Cambridge in the U.K., coming in at no. 19 with 361. And while Harvard may produce the largest number of ultra-rich graduates, the school that took the top spot in worth per graduate was MIT. Harvard came in fifth by that measure, behind Yale.

Of the millionaire-producers abroad, Oxford holds the top spot, followed by Mumbai and Cambridge. In fourth place is the London School of Economics and Finance, which graduated 273 of the upper-end millionaires, followed by the University of Sydney, with 247.

Schools in the English-speaking world dominate the international rankings. Six of the 20 spots are taken by British institutions and five are in Australia. Two are Canadian, one is in Ireland, and one calls Singapore home. The others are in France (one), China (two), and India (two). India’s Mumbai and University of Delhi are in slots no. 2 and no. 6, respectively. France’s INSEAD is no. 7, while Singapore’s National University is no. 9 and China’s Tsingua and Peking Universities are nos. 10 and 11.

That gives an idea of the raw number of millionaires among alumni, but one question is what proportion are self-made. The Wealth-X table doesn’t offer too details on how the super-rich got that way, but it does show the difference in the number of people who are self-made, inheritors or a mix of the two.

The school that takes the top spot in inherited wealth is the University of Mumbai, where 27% of the ultra-high-net-worth alumni were born into their fortunes, with 29% a mix of inheritance and earnings. Harvard is fairly run-of-the-mill in that regard. Some 26% of Harvard’s ultra-high-net-worth grads either inherited their money or were a mix of inheritance and self-made. That’s the same as the University of Chicago, Princeton and NYU.

The percentage of self-made millionaires was highest at the University of Virginia, with fully 79% of the ultra-high-net-worth individuals among alumni. After Mumbai, the lowest percentage of self-made wealthy came from Boston University. So if you want your son or daughter to be around future business gurus, Virginia might be the best choice. For hobnobbing with the trust fund crowd, The University of Southern California or BU is better.
Networking Premium

The data also shows the value of networks. Harvard is famous for having people in high places: Harvard has among its alumni Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and economist Paul Krugman (who got an Economics PhD at MIT). Even the dropouts can become important people — Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook Inc. (FB) while a student at Harvard.

There is also some reflection of where wealthy people send their children. Yale is famous for being the incubator of elite families — think of the Bushes. Harvard, Brown, Columbia and Stanford also have reputations as schools for the children of the wealthy.

The Bottom Line

As the saying goes, one of the top ways to get rich (or richer) is to start rich. For those less fortunate, getting into a great school and taking advantage of all the networking opportunities it offers should help.