The most elusive yet revealing stat about a business school is the size of its endowment. Few schools disclose this number in any public way, though it’s fair to say that B-school deans put more focus on this one number than any other. After all, it’s the ultimate measure of a school’s true “wealth.”
And a wealthy school is more likely to attract and retain the best faculty and staff. It’s no surprise that business schools with the largest budgets devote at least half of their expenses to salaries and benefits. A wealthier school is also more likely to have better facilities, in the form of new state-of-the-art buildings or well-maintained historic buildings with the latest technology. Wealthy schools typically have more flexibility to fight for the best students in the form of scholarship money, which in turn improves the overall profile of an incoming class and ultimately the career outcomes of its graduates.
In fact, the size of a school’s endowment is far more important an indicator of a school’s power and impact than an individual ranking, location, facilities, acceptance rate, career prospects, network strength, or industry placement. Because a business school’s wealth typically comes from gifts and other donations from its alumni network, a school’s wealth is a good indication of the strength of its alumni base. So which schools lead and which institutions have some catching up to do?
THE GAP BETWEEN HARVARD & STANFORD: $2 BILLION
With painstaking research, Poets&Quants has produced the most complete and up-to-date list of business school endowments ever published, with more than 50 top schools sharing their latest data. (Only two top U.S. schools declined to provide this information: Notre Dame University’s Mendoza School of Business and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School). Not surprisingly, you’ll find a strong correlation between endowment and the rankings, the quality of a class profile, and career statistics. But the numbers pull back the curtain on overvalued and undervalued programs and provide a potential explanation as to why certain schools are climbing the rankings every year while others stay put or lose ground.
It won’t shock anyone to know that Harvard Business School is at the top of the endowment heap. More surprising is its lead over all its rivals. As of fiscal 2015, ended June 30th, 2015, HBS’ treasure chest totaled a whopping $3.3 billion, the size of many university and college endowments. The gap between Harvard and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is now nearly $2 billion, given the GSB’s current $1.392 billion endowment. In the past four years alone, HBS has increased its endowment by 24.5%, or $658 million, from $2.7 billion in fiscal 2012, when the Great Recession walloped all endowments.
After the big two, you’ll find a predictable set of schools at the top: the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School at $1.289 billion, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management at $866.0 million, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management at $812.9 million. A big surprise is the endowment size of Yale University’s School of Management at $743.0 million, placing it sixth among the top business schools. And an equal surprise, in the other direction, might well be the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business which has an endowment of $734.0 million.
The Chicago Booth number, however, does not include investment manager David Booth’s $300 million naming gift in 2008 which can yield more annual income than the cash thrown off by the Booth endowment. If the grant from Dimensional Fund Advisors’ Co-Founder David Booth were included, the Booth endowment could be double its actual size, putting it behind only Harvard (see table for complete list). Explains Joe Buck, associate dean for the office of advancement, “The Booth gift is not part of our endowment because there was no transfer of assets. The gift is structured so that the school receives a cash flow each year based on the stock dividends of Dimensional Fund Advisors.”