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 than someone who didn't. And if you're a financial advisor seeking to build up or build out your client list with wealthy individuals, pay attention to these findings.

Key Takeaways

  • Most in the developed world dream of sending their kids to college, but the best schools can cost in the six-figures once everything is said and done if there's no scholarships.
  • If your wealthy, those sticker prices may not dissuade you and Harvard along with the rest of the Ivy Leagues rank up top in the U.S., and Cambridge, LSE and Oxford in the U.K.
  • Not only that, but getting a top education gives you much better chances to become wealthy in your own right as you progress through your career.

Where the Wealthy Get Educated

Research firm Wealth-X compiled a list of schools that produce millionaires and billionaires. It looked at alumni and reviewed the schools they were graduating 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 only included undergraduate and graduate degrees but did not count diplomas, certificates, honorary degrees or any degrees that weren't completed. 

According to the firm, the term "net worth" is defined by all holdings including privately- and publicly-held businesses as well as investable assets. 

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

Bet on the Crimson

Harvard counts some 1,906 high-net-worth graduates. That's near twice the number of the next ranking college, the University of Pennsylvania, with 832 (despite its name, it's a private institution).

Rounding out the top five were Columbia University (578), New York University (488) and Stanford University (466). The Bulldogs may have the upper hand against the Crimson on the football field, but Yale University came in ninth place with 360, behind MIT, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Both Princeton and Cornell followed in 10th and 11th place. The University of Southern California hit 13th place, while other private schools, the University of Notre Dame and Boston University, ranked 16th and 19th place. 

The public universities on the list were the University of Virginia (12th with 300), the University of Texas at Austin (14th place with 293), the University of California, Berkeley (in 15th place with 290), the University of Michigan (at number 17 with 272), and UCLA in 20th place with 235. (For related reading, see: Dropping Out of School to Start a Business.)


Where The Ultra-Wealthy Go To School

Going Global

Of the millionaire-producers abroad, the University of Cambridge holds the top spot, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Oxford. In fourth place is France's INSEAD, which graduated 159 of the upper-end millionaires, followed by the University of Mumbai with 119. 

Schools in the English-speaking world dominate the international rankings. Seven of the 20 spots are taken by British institutions and three are in Australia. Two are Canadian, one is in Lebanon and one calls Singapore home. The others are in India (three) and China (two). 

India's Mumbai, University of Delhi and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad are in the fifth, seventh and 17th slots respectively. Singapore's National University is in sixth place and China's Tsinghua and Peking Universities are in 10th and 11th place. Lebanon's American University of Beirut came in at eighth place. (For related reading, see: Now Is the Time to Snag Gen X Clients.)

Self-Made vs. Inherited

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 many 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 with the highest percentage of inherited wealth in the United States was Boston University at 14%, followed by Columbia's 13%.

This is in comparison to the largest number of ultra-high-net-worth individual alums who were reportedly self-made, the majority of whom attended the University of Virginia. A total of 83% of these individuals graduated from that school. The second spot for self-made individuals went to the University of Chicago with 82%. 

The report also broke down the gender of these individuals by school. The schools with the highest concentration of ultra-rich alums who were male were from MIT and the University of Notre Dame, both at 96%. Female alums were far fewer — 12% of ultra-rich alums were from Boston University, and 11% graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago. (For related reading, see: What Advisors Can Learn From Ultra-Wealthy Clients.)

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, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and economist Paul Krugman, who got an Economics Ph.D. at MIT. Even the dropouts can become important people — Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook while he was a student at Harvard. (For related reading, see: 5 Entrepreneurs Who Became Rich While Still in School.)

There is also some reflection on 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 (as well as working hard) should help. (For related reading, see: Financial Advisors Need to Seek Out This Group NOW.)