How rich is Harvard? That’s bigger than the economies of 120 nations.

Harvard University is not only among the most prestigious American institutions of higher education—it is also the richest.

Harvard and other elite schools have received fierce criticism in recent weeks for their handling of student protests related to the conflict between Israel and Hamaswhere some alumni threaten to withdraw large donations now and then blacklisted students for what they characterize as anti-Semitic statements.

It is not a passive threat. Ivy League colleges and universities such as Stanford and MIT have amassed massive endowments, with wealthy alumni exerting considerable influence over university policy and even curriculum. Harvard’s endowment of more than $50 billion is the largest among American universities and is larger than the GDP of more than 120 nations, including countries such as Tunisia, Bahrain and Iceland.

As the war also unfolded as a battle over the competing narratives of power in Gaza and Israel, cash-strapped donors to America’s elite schools have sought to use their financial power to dictate the debate on college campuses. University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill stepped back as president just days after hedge fund manager Ross Stevens, a graduate of the institution’s Wharton Business School, threatened to withdraw a 100 million dollar donation following her congressional testimony last week in a hearing on anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Harvard said Tuesday that its president, Claudine Gay, who has also become a lightning rod in the controversy, will remain in office after gaining the support of the university’s highest governing body and hundreds of faculty members. But she is likely to face tensions over the war

Harvard’s endowment in 2023

Harvard’s endowment in fiscal year 2023 was $50.7 billion, down slightly from $50.9 billion the year before, according to the latest financial report from his endowment.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school is the richest American university, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which based its ranking on 2021 endowment data.

Universities, including Harvard, have typically built their endowments through two avenues: donations and investment gains.

Harvard noted that its endowments returned just 2.9% in fiscal year 2023 — well below the target of 8%. But donations provided the university with 45% of its income through gifts and endowment income, signaling the importance of financial contributions from wealthy alumni.

Universities typically rely on their endowments to help fund operations and to provide financial aid to students, with Gay writing in the latest financial report that Harvard provided more than $850 million in financial aid that year.

“Undergraduates from families with annual incomes below $85,000 are fully funded by the university — they pay nothing — and expected contributions for families with annual incomes between $85,000 and $150,000 max out at ten percent of annual income,” she wrote.

Harvard tuition 2023

Such financial support would certainly be necessary for families with annual incomes of less than $150,000, given the tuition and fees for the current academic year stands to $79,450.

Fallout continues for college presidents after congressional hearing on anti-Semitism on campus


By comparison, the cost of attending Harvard in 1975 was about $5,350, according to to Business Insider, which underlines the increasing tuition in higher education nationwide.

That means Harvard’s tuition has risen much faster than inflation—that $5,350 today would amount to about $30,000 if it had tracked the change in the consumer price index over the past half century. Harvard is not alone in increasing tuition faster than inflation, with higher education generally outpacing the CPI.

Harvard President’s Salary

Serving as Harvard’s president can be a lucrative job, with Gay earning $879,079 in 2021 when she was president-elect, according to to the Harvard Crimson. Outgoing Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow earned more than $1.3 million that year, it noted.

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