It seems some American universities and university systems can only be described as "stinking rich".
There are 195 countries in the world, and over half of them are poorer than Harvard University.
The Ivy League institution’s 2018 endowment was $38.3 billion, according to Stacker. This amount exceeds the wealth of any of more than half of the 195 countries around the world.
. . .
Campus Reform reached out to Harvard for a breakdown of funding allocation and to see what the school thought of the college vs. countries statistic, but received no comment in time for publication.
With a 2018 endowment of $30.9 billion, the University of Texas system finished right beneath Harvard on Stacker’s list, as reported by KXAN.
UT Austin spokesman J.B. Bird told Campus Reform that diversity accounted for a “huge community” and that the funds “serve all people.” He highlighted that, among the individuals served by the funds are rural Texans.
. . .
Other schools rounding out the top ten U.S. colleges with endowments larger than the total wealth of dozens of countries world's are Yale University, Stanford University, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, Texas A&M University System, University of Michigan, and Northwestern University.
There's more at the link.
The universities concerned will doubtless claim that since many endowment donations are made for a specific purpose (e.g. to "endow" a chair, or professorship, in a particular subject, or build and maintain a particular building, or fund a specific program), they can't be used for other purposes. Nevertheless, my relatively simple brain can't help but think that if several billion dollars isn't enough to cater for every one of those purposes, and still leave several billion free for what have you, then some universities' financial officers haven't been doing their job.
That being the case, why are such rich institutions charging admission and tuition fees at all? Why not make their education - lectures, textbooks, etc. - free of charge? Those costs would amount to chump change compared to their assets. They could charge for accommodation, food, etc. if they saw fit, but even those elements of education wouldn't strain their resources overmuch. Also, why are those same universities constantly approaching alumni for more money, more donations, more endowment contributions? When is enough, enough? I'd have thought, once you reach a certain multiple of the institution's annual expenditure (say, ten times as much, or fifteen, or twenty - pick one), any more money is basically superfluous. Isn't this just seeking money for the sake of money, rather than for any higher purpose? And couldn't that money be better spent elsewhere?
Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned, a stick-in-the-mud. I thought the purpose of a university was to educate, not to continually enrich itself . . . but then, the late, great Jerry Pournelle saw this coming a long time ago.