Many colleges and universities in the United States maintain a financial endowment consisting of assets that are invested in financial securities, real estate, and other instruments. The investment yields a return that funds a portion of an institution's operational expenses while the principal exists in perpetuity. U.S. colleges and universities maintain some of the largest endowments in the world and make up the vast majority of higher education institutions with endowments greater than $1 billion.
The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) maintains information on endowments at U.S. higher education institutions by fiscal year (FY). As of FY2022[update], the total endowment market value of U.S. institutions stood at $807.332 billion, with an average across all institutions of $1.185 billion and a median of $208.735 million.
Enhancements and levies
The tabulated data below are from NACUBO. Some universities benefit from endowments that are not under their direct control but which are nonetheless dedicated to the welfare of one or several institutions. Examples of these foundations include The Duke Endowment, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.
In 2017, a federal endowment tax was enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 in the form of an excise tax of 1.4% on institutions that have at least 500 tuition-paying students and net assets of at least $500,000 per student. The $500,000 is not adjusted for inflation, so the threshold is effectively lowered over time.
The endowment tax provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been criticized as funding tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy at the expense of education. Critics note that the tax could threaten financial aid for low-income students, stifle social mobility, and obstruct life-saving research. Lobbyists representing wealthy private universities continue to advocate for its repeal. The Don't Tax Higher Education Act, which would repeal the endowment tax, was introduced in the 115th United States Congress, 116th United States Congress, and 117th United States Congress but died in the Ways and Means Committee each time.
Endowments greater than $1 billion
For public universities, the larger endowments are often associated with flagship state universities, especially those associated with a medical school. Notably, 17 states do not have institutions included in this list: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The New England states, however, are known for their wealthy private institutions.
Endowments per student greater than $1 million
These institutions are exclusively private.
(FTE - Fall 2021)
|Endowment per student|
(USD - FY2022)
|Princeton Theological Seminary||326||$4,310,071|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||11,836||$2,090,222|
|Columbia Theological Seminary||168||$1,561,400|
|California Institute of Technology||2,397||$1,516,479|
|University of Notre Dame||12,946||$1,292,237|
|Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary||114||$1,247,470|
- NACUBO classifies the University of Delaware as a private institution. It is chartered as a state-assisted, privately governed university.
- Endowment value includes related foundation(s).
- System-wide endowment pool managed by the Regents of the University of California.
- Endowment value includes foundation(s).
- Endowment value includes affiliated entities.
- "Historic Endowment Study Data". National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). February 17, 2023. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
- "Number of U.S. Institutional Respondents to the 2022 NTSE, and Respondents' Total Endowment Market Values, by Endowment Size and Institution Type" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). April 21, 2023. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
- "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY21 to FY22" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). April 21, 2023. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
- "Wealthy colleges face uncertainty as they seek ways to avoid new endowment tax". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
- "The wealthiest universities are paying big endowment tax bills, but how much are others who are on the hook paying?". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
- "End the Endowment Tax". The Harvard Crimson. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Wilson, John. "Why the Endowment Tax Is Unconstitutional". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Powell, Alvin (21 December 2017). "Tax on university endowments passes". The Harvard Gazette. Harvard University. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Kreighbaum, Andrew (23 April 2018). "Endowment Tax Fight Not Over Yet". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Fang, Lee (July 25, 2022). "Ivy League Universities Push for Special Tax Cut". The Intercept. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
- "H.R.5220 - Don't Tax Higher Education Act". Congress.gov. United States Congress. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
- "H.R.4438 - Don't Tax Higher Education Act". Congress.gov. United States Congress. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
- "H.R.4438 - Don't Tax Higher Education Act". Congress.gov. United States Congress. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
- "U.S. and Canadian 2022 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2022 Endowment Market Value, Change in Market Value from FY21 to FY22, and FY22 Endowment Market Values Per Full-time Equivalent Student" (XLS). National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). April 21, 2023. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
- Alamdari, Natalia (March 3, 2020). "Is UD public or private? 'We're special,' lawyer says, and have to agree to charter changes". The News Journal. Gannett. Retrieved July 5, 2023.