Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
HEC Paris | Mr. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 2.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Community Uplift
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Worldwide
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Wharton | Mr. LatAm Indian Trader
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. MBB to PE
GMAT 740, GPA 3.98
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. MBB Aspirant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Ms. Finance
GMAT 760, GPA 3.48
Harvard | Mr. Soldier Boy
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Angel Investor
GMAT 700, GPA 3.20
Rice Jones | Mr. ToastMasters Treasurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Kellogg | Mr. MBB Private Equity
GMAT TBD (target 720+), GPA 4.0
Said Business School | Ms. Creative Planner
GMAT 690, GPA 3.81 / 5.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Wedding Music Business
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 Auditor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Software PE
GMAT 760, GPA 3.45
Harvard | Mr. First Gen Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 4.0 (First Class Honours)
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB/FinTech
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Break Into Buy-Side
GMAT 780, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Perseverance
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Politics Abroad
GRE 332, GPA 4.2/4.3
MIT Sloan | Mr. Canadian Banker
GMAT 720, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Ms. Fintech To Tech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.54

The Financials Behind the Harvard-Stanford Rivalry

Harvard Business School across the Charles River

Stanford vs. Harvard. No matter what different rankings of the best business schools show, the general agreement among those in the know is that these are the two best business schools in the world. The two giants of business education get more applications for their MBA programs than any other schools. Stanford, given its smaller entering class size of 390, is the most selective business school in the world. Harvard, with an entering class of 910, is not far behind.

We’ve compared these two schools on the basic academic and cultural differences in one of our B-school smackdown reports. We’ve also taken a look at how their initiatives in entrepreneurship stack up against each other. But how would these two schools compare if they were companies instead of educational institutions? Unlike many schools, Harvard and Stanford produce annual financial reports that allow a rare inside glimpse of both powerhouses. Stanford’s just released its investors report for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31. Harvard has yet to publish its report for the fiscal year ended June 30th, but the 2009 document is available online.

When you look at the underlying financials of both institutions, you quickly understand that Stanford is the David to the Goliath that is Harvard. Stanford’s annual revenue of $155 million in 2010 is about a third of Harvard’s $472 million in 2009. Predictably, that’s because every line item in the budget at Harvard is significantly larger than Stanford, whether it’s tuition and fees or endowment income.

Stanford saw a decline in endowment income in 2010 to $52 million from $58.8 million a year earlier. The school largely offset the decline by rising tuition and fees from students which brought in $70.9 million last year, up from $64.5 million in 2009. The result: Student tuition and fees now account for 46% of Stanford’s annual operating budget, up from 42% in 2009.

What else do these reports tell you about the East Coast-West Coast rivalry between the two best schools in management education?

  • Stanford alums seem more loyal and committed to their alma mater than those from Harvard. Some 41% of Stanford alums made gifts to the school in 2010, compared to  24% of Harvard’s MBA alumni in 2009 (though HBS had a near 30% participation rate in 2008).
  • While a higher percentage of Stanford alums open their wallets to the school, Harvard’s much larger alumni base ultimately means that HBS gets more in cash gifts annually. Stanford’s take from annual gifts and its business school fund was $26.8 million last year, versus Harvard’s $37 million in cash gifts in 2009 (a year earlier, before the recession hit, HBS brought in $51 million).
  • Harvard Business School’s endowment totals $2.8 billion, more than triple Stanford’s $825 million. The endowment at Columbia Business School, in contrast, is just $409 million for fiscal 2010.
  • When it comes to tuition and fees, Harvard brings in a remarkable $191 million a year. That compares with Stanford’s $70.9 million in 2010. The biggest difference, besides the larger size of the Harvard class, is executive education. Harvard brought in $107 million in tuition from exec ed in 2009. Stanford did not break out its exec ed revenue.
  • Not surprisingly, Harvard gets significant cash each year from its publishing operations which are the envy of every business school in the world. In 2009, Harvard sold a record number of case studies: 8,334,000, up from 6,958,000 five years earlier. The school also sold 1,478,000 copies of Harvard Press books, along with 2,863,000 copies of Harvard Business Review reprints. All told, the school’s publishing gold mine brought in $137 million in revenue. At Stanford and most other schools, it’s pretty much zero. Put another way, what Harvard brings in annually in publishing revenue is more than double Stanford’s endowment income.
  • Harvard is more generous with fellowship support to its MBA students than Stanford. Stanford said it spent $14.3 million on student fellowships last year, down about $300,000 from the previous year. About 56% of the MBA received fellowship support with an average award of $20,240. At Harvard, the average annual award came to just over $24,700, with a two-year MBA fellowship of $49,500, up from $24,500 five years earlier. Total financial aid for students at Harvard in 2009 was $33 million.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.