A list of College and University endowments shows that in 2011, there were 18 with endowment funds of over $5bn. The big daddy of course is Harvard with over $30bn. List of colleges and universities in the United States by endowment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia They are classed I believe as philanthropies. Most philanthropic endowments are required by federal law to distribute at least 5% of their endowments annually, but colleges are exempt from this. So what are the colleges doing with this money? Well, for the most part they are trying to turn it into more money. However, it has been estimated that if in 2006 all the Harvard students paid the maximum in tuition and fees, it would amount to less than $300 million. But if Harvard had spent 5% of its $34.6bn 2007 endowment, all Harvard undergraduate and graduate students could attend for free and the university would still have $1.3bn left over. It would require less than 1% of the endowments of Harvard and Yale to allow all students to attend tuition-free; Stanford, MIT, Princeton and Rice would require less than 2% of their endowments and 29 schools would require less than 3% for all their students to attend tuition-free (source - various Wiki links). This doesn't sound particularly philanthropic to me. Someone should look more closely at how these institutions handle their endowments. I'd prefer to see a higher number of truly gifted but underprivileged students given scholarships to America's great seats of learning than I would swathes of ancient professors with very few marbles left rolling around getting a free ride for life, or even more detailed and nebulous research into still further peripheral subjects. Just my opinion.