The 34 Colleges That Spend the Most on Research and Development
Research moves us forward and keeps our lives from becoming stagnant. Without investigation, we wouldn’t know how to walk on the moon, the importance of eating vegetables or the significance of bees in our food chain.
Many things still need to be discovered, and the world’s universities are among the most significant institutions helping us do so. Below are the 34 universities in the United States with the highest annual research expenditures. Figures come from the National Science Foundation.
34. University of Texas
Location: Austin, Texas
Total endowment: $30.8 billion
Annual research expenditures: $652,187,000 (UT Austin)
In 1876, Texas’s constitution established a state university to be opened as soon as possible. Classes began at UT Austin in 1883.
Significant donations have come from the Moody Foundation, Hearst Corporation and the Mulva Family Foundation. Other noteworthy contributions have resulted in the Bill and Melinda Gates Science Complex, Dell Computer Science Hall and (Red) McCombs School of Business.
33. Emory University
Total endowment: $7.23 billion
Annual research expenditures: $664,888,000
Established in 1836 in Oxford, Georgia, by the Methodist Episcopal Church, most of the major donations to this university can be traced back to Coca-Cola. In 1915, the soft drink company helped them move to Atlanta, which is also where Coca-Cola headquarters are located.
In 1979, Robert Woodruff, past president of Coca-Cola, and his brother, George, contributed $105 million. Recently the National Institute on Aging awarded Emory $37 million targeted to accelerate research on treating and preventing Alzheimer’s Disease.
32. Rutgers University
Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Total endowment: $1.33 billion
Annual research expenditures: $681,719,000
When this school opened, its formal name was Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, and it was one of the nine colonial colleges built in the nation before 1776. Now Rutgers has three campuses in New Jersey, including satellites in Camden and Newark.
Researchers are widely known for their work on education, childhood nutrition, digestive health, exercise and lipids. Donors include filmmaker George Lucas, fashionista Diane von Furstenberg and graduate Richard Weeks, who committed $10 million to the school.
31. Michigan State University
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Total endowment: $2.91 billion
Annual research expenditures: $694,917,000
Established in 1855, MSU was the first institution of advanced learning to teach scientific agriculture. It was also a pioneer among land-grant universities, and it’s now famous for its plant-science studies and its work with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Prominent alums include basketball star Magic Johnson and author Richard Ford. Distinguished donors include graduate and real estate investor Edward Minskoff, who gave $30 million to the school, and Eli Broad, a philanthropist and honors graduate who bestowed more than $100 million.
30. Vanderbilt University
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Total endowment: $4.325 billion
Annual research expenditures: $712,036,000
At the age of 79, shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt established this university. Now it’s widely known for its school of medicine.
Martha Ingram, chair of Ingram Industries Inc., contributed $300 million to Vanderbilt. The Dyer Observatory was named after Arthur Dyer, an engineering graduate of the school and a benefactor.
29. University of California, Davis
Location: Davis, California
Total endowment: $1.4 billion
Annual research expenditures: $738,347,000
The first graduating class matriculated in 1911 from what was then known as the University Farm. Now the Aggies’ research focuses on helping make the world a better place.
Prominent gifts have come from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with $100 million to create the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Grateful patient Ernest Tschannen donated $38.5 million, dedicated to the UC Davis Eye Center and the Center for Vision Science.
28. Northwestern University
Location: Evanston, Illinois
Total endowment: $11.08 billion
Annual research expenditures: $751,809,000
Opened to the public in 1855, Northwestern is currently worth more than $11 billion. The school has campuses in Evanston and Chicago, and one in Qatar.
The Innovation and New Ventures Office raises $75 million annually through licensing revenue. Although much of the university’s wealth comes from building and land assets, it has also received some generous monetary donations. Faculty members Christina Enroth-Cugell and David Cugell bequeathed a generous gift of $9.39 million to fund research.
27. Washington University
Location: St. Louis
Total endowment: $7.29 billion
Annual research expenditures: $754,462,000
Founded in 1853 by St. Louis merchant Wayman Crow and pastor William Greenleaf Eliot, this university thrives at its downtown location. Schools of fine arts, law and medicine were added over the years. Now researchers work on 3,000 projects a year, many of which have a direct impact on the St. Louis area.
26. University of Southern California
Location: Los Angeles
Total endowment: $5.94 billion
Annual research expenditures: $764,322,000
Upon its opening in 1880, the school boasted 53 students and 10 teachers then. Now 44,000 are enrolled and the full-time faculty numbers 4,800.
Gordon Maxwell, a trustee, alumni and head of the electronics company Marshall industries, gifted the school $35 million; the school of business was named after him. The W.M. Keck Foundation, which supports research in the fields of science, engineering and medicine, granted USC $110 million, while the Price Family Charitable Fund, a non-profit dedicated to programs that benefit youth, contributed $50 million.
25. University of California, Berkeley
Location: Berkeley, California
Total endowment: $1.94 billion
Annual research expenditures: $770,822,000
The school was founded in 1868 as a way to “contribute even more than California’s gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations.” Now this university boasts one of the country’s highest research budgets.
The Hewlett Foundation made a substantial contribution of $113 million. Distinguished grads include J.R. Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist and the manager of the Los Alamos lab during the Manhattan Project, and Ernest Lawrence, a nuclear scientist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939. Currently, the faculty boasts eight Nobel Prize winners.
24. University of Florida
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Total endowment: $1.74 billion
Annual research expenditures: $801,418,000
The University of Florida’s research facilities include the Brain Institute, the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, the Center for Exercise Science and the Center for Latin American Studies.
Al Warrington, a managing partner with Arthur Andersen, pledged a gift of $75 million for the Warrington College of Business Administration. Billionaire Herbert Wertheim, who was an inventor and optometrist, gave the school $50 million.
23. Georgia Institute of Technology
Total endowment: $2.09 billion
Annual research expenditures: $804,301,000
The Georgia School of Technology opened in 1888 to 84 male students. Gradually the school shifted its focus from a trade school to a widely accepted tech university and changed its name in 1948 to the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1952, the rules changed so women could attend Georgia Tech.
Now the college’s emphasis is on advanced technological and scientific research.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ernest Scheller Jr., former chair of Silberline Manufacturing, donated $50 million to his alma mater.
22. Pennsylvania State University
Location: State College, Pennsylvania
Total endowment: $4.26 billion
Annual research expenditures: $854,815,000
When this institution of higher learning opened in 1855, it was called the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania with the goal of applying science to farming. Now Penn State has 20 separate campuses.
In 1963 the Hershey Trust Company gave its first of many donations, a cool $50 million. Later, the chocolate company based in Pennsylvania established the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Penn State grad and founder of an oil and natural gas company, Terrence Pegula, made the school’s largest donation of $88 million. Donald Bellisario, grad, producer and TV series creator, gifted Penn State $30 million, along with his wife, Vivienne.
21. Ohio State University
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Total endowment: $4.6 billion
Annual research expenditures: $864,327,000
Opened in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, the school’s name was changed to Ohio State University (OSU) in 1878. Generous benefactors have included 1952 grad Ralph D. Mershon, whose $7 million donation funded the Interdisciplinary Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and Leslie Wexner, another alumnus, and founder of the retail store, The Limited. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, most recently contributed $65 million to OSU.
20. Columbia University
Location: New York City
Total endowment: $10.72 billion
Annual research expenditures: $893,062,000
This institution of higher learning dedicated to research first opened in 1754 as King’s College. King George II of England declared the school’s beginning by royal charter. The first class had eight students; last fall’s enrollment numbered more than 33,000 learners.
Columbia, the oldest school of advanced education in the state of New York, makes $200 million a year through their patented-related businesses. John Kluge, who founded Metromedia, left the school $400 million after his death because he felt his student experience there transformed his life.
19. Texas A&M
Location: College Station, Texas
Total endowment: $13.5 billion
Annual research expenditures: $905,474,000
Although Texas A&M has 11 campuses throughout Texas, it’s widely known for its location in College Station, which is also the home of the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum. Opened in 1876 for students, it wasn’t until the 1960s, under the presidency of Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder, that African-American and women students were admitted.
From 2014-2018, this university spent more than $700 million each year on research. NASA and the National Institutes of Health also contribute to the school’s research budget.
18. New York University
Location: New York City
Total endowment: $4.23 billion
Annual research expenditures: $917,744,000
In 1832, this school’s first classes commenced in rented space near downtown. The founders then secured a permanent home in 1835, where they erected a Gothic building referred to as the University Building.
These days the medical school has been making news because of a $200 million gift from Kenneth G. Langone, the founder of Home Depot. Billionaire Ron Perlman donated $50 million for the medical center’s emergency wing and Marvel’s Isaac Perlmutter contributed $50 million to the cancer center. NYU’s medical center is one of the most pioneering in the U.S.
17. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Total Endowment: $3.72 billion
Annual research expenditures: $921,681,000
This public research university opened as a prep school in 1851 but suffered financially from the very beginning. It wasn’t until John Sargent Pillsbury, founder of the Pillsbury Company, paid all the school’s debts that it started to thrive both financially and academically.
Benefactors include Gold Bond trading stamp creator Curtis L. Carlson ($25 million), alumnus Herbert H. Hanson Jr., who donated $20 million, and $10 million for the School of Nursing from the Bentson Foundation.
16. University of Pittsburgh
Total endowment: $4.2 billion
Annual research expenditures: $939,706,000
Located three miles from the heart of Pittsburgh, this university is identified with its schools of medicine, education and the Swanson School of Engineering. This was also where Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine to prevent polio in the 1950s.
From 1967 to 1991, Chancellor Wesley Posvar increased Pitt’s budget and tripled the school’s endowment. Business leader and author William S. Dietrich contributed $125 million to his alma mater, reasoning that what he studied there helped him succeed.
15. Yale University
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Total endowment: $29.3 billion
Annual research expenditures: $951,084,000
Elihu Yale donated 417 books, a portrait of King George I and other goods, and the school adopted his name and became Yale College in 1718.
Lots of money has been given to Yale in the past 10 years. In 2010, Zhang Lei, a Chinese MBA grad, bestowed $9 million, while John Malone, an American billionaire, followed up with $50 million the next year. Charles B. Johnson, the largest shareholder in Franklin Resources, topped both of them with the hefty amount of $250 million.
14. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Total endowment: $16.5 billion
Annual research expenditures: $952,017,000
William Barton Rogers first conceived of the idea of a “polytechnic institute” in 1846, and he presided as the first president of MIT when it opened in 1861. At that time, the school was called “Boston Tech.” When the institution moved to Cambridge in 1916, the name changed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
13. Cornell University
Location: Ithaca, New York
Total endowment: $6.95 billion
Annual research expenditures: $984,478,000
The school is named for former New York Senator Ezra Cornell, who donated a farm and $500,000 for its beginnings in 1865. Cornell is now known for its programs in Southeast Asian studies, its College of Veterinary Medicine and its School of Hotel Administration.
12. University of California, Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles
Total endowment: $5.54 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,076,917,000
The school’s research has produced breakthroughs in medical diagnostics and treatment, laying the framework for the Internet and, also, better understanding of the human condition. Much of the school’s research has been felt around the globe. Among UCLA researchers, 14 have won Nobel Prizes.
Former UCLA basketball players Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love have made large donations to fund the school’s research programs. David Geffen, a producer and film studio executive, has also provided $100 million for various programs.
11. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Total endowment: $3.4 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,102,063,000
The school was the first institution of higher learning in North Carolina. Chemist and graduate, John Motley Morehead III, gave the college $3 million in 1949 to be used for the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Other generous donors have included Joan and Dennis Gillings, with a $50 million gift, and Fred Eshelman, who gave $35 million.
10. Stanford University
Location: Palo Alto, California
Total endowment: $26.4 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,109,708,000
Founded in 1885 by U.S. Senator Leland Stanford, this university is located in Silicon Valley. Big donors include the Hewlett Foundation, Dorothy and Robert King, and real estate tycoon John Arrillaga. In 2016, this school received its largest gift ever from Nike co-founder Philip K. Knight. It was $400 million.
The research community here includes Nobel Prize winners all the way down to undergraduates.
9. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Total endowment: $38.3 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,123,160,000
Ranked as the best university in the world and the wealthiest endowment-wise, New College was founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. But the name was quickly changed when John Harvard, a clergyman, donated $1,285 and a large selection of books.
Benefactors who have contributed a total of more than $100 million include the National Football League Players Association, Bill and Melinda Gates, David Rockefeller and Emily Rauh Pulitzer.
8. Duke University
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Total endowment: $7.92 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,126,924,000
In 1892, Julian S. Carr and Washington Duke donated land and $85,000 to what became known as Duke University. Later, Duke gifted $300,000 as long as the powers that be let women attend the university. His son, James, contributed $40 million.
Researchers at the school are also granted almost $500 million per year from government entities. Duke is popular with students for its engineering, business and public policy schools.
7. University of California, San Diego
Location: San Diego
Total endowment: $2.04 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,133,454,000
One of the school’s founding fathers, Roger Revelle, has one of the six colleges here named after him, Revelle College. Research here runs the gamut from climate science to AIDS to nanotechnology and social mobility.
Taner Halicioglu, Facebook’s first employee beyond the founders, contributed $75 million to his alma mater. Recently philanthropist Denny Sanford gifted the school more than $100 million to be used to study the biology of compassion.
6. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Total endowment: $1,158 million
Annual research expenditures: $1,193,413,000
Renowned for its schools of English, public affairs, law, medicine and education, UW has been named one of the top ten colleges in national research spending every year since 1972.
One of the university’s benefactors was former Cisco Systems Chairman John P. Morgridge, who along with his wife, Tashia, gave the school $100 million. U.S. Senator and UW grad, Herb Kohl, donated $25 million to create the Kohl Center for athletes. Another 13 graduates banded together and bestowed $85 million to the business school.
5. University of Washington
Total endowment: $1,278 million
Annual research expenditures: $1,348,220,000
What started as the single Territorial University of Washington in 1861, now has additional campuses in Bothell and Tacoma, in addition to the main, urban setting encompassing 634 acres in Seattle.
The late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, made two very generous donations to UDub. The first gift of $10 million partially funded the Allen Library, and the second donation of $14 million went to the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering.
The school is well-known for its advances in medicine.
4. University of Pennsylvania
Total endowment: $13.7 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,374,293,000
Benjamin Franklin founded a small academy in 1751 that later became the University of Pennsylvania. Benefactor Joseph Wharton had the Wharton School of Business named after him. Raymond and Ruth Perelman gave $225 million to UPenn, and for their contribution, their names are on the School of Medicine.
Research at the University of Pennsylvania focuses primarily on medicine, technology, business and science.
3. University of California, San Francisco
Location: San Francisco
Total endowment: $1,294 million
Annual research expenditures: $1,409,398,000
UCSF began as Toland Medical College in 1864. In 1873, the school incorporated under the UCSF name.
This research university focuses entirely on the health sciences. In 2017, it received its largest donation: $500 million from the Helen Diller Family Foundation. This nonprofit supports education, science and the arts, mostly the Bay area but also in Israel.
The faculty is learning how to prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, neurological disorders, cancer and diabetes.
2. University of Michigan
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Total endowment: $11.9 billion
Annual research expenditures: $1,530,139,000
The University of Michigan was established in 1812 in Detroit and moved to Ann Arbor in 1832. An early benefactor was the Ford Motor Company. Horace Rackham was an original Ford stockholder, and his donation led to his namesake, Rackham Graduate School. More recently, Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross gifted the university $100 million.
Research done here covers almost every aspect of science, engineering, medicine, social services and humanities.
1. Johns Hopkins University
Total endowment: $4.266 billion
Annual research expenditures: $2,562,307,000
Founded in 1876 by philanthropist Johns Hopkins, this university is one of the most well-known medical schools in the world. Hopkins donated $7 million and insisted a teaching hospital be established at the university.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given more than $1 billion to this university. The school’s basic research leads to clinical research trials, and what’s learned is applied to help patients.