40 colleges control most of the money in higher education

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Just as the gap between America's wealthy and poor is widening, rich universities are pulling away from less well-endowed schools when it comes to the resources they offer students.

According to a study of around 500 universities released Thursday by Moody's Investors Services, the 40 richest schools control two-thirds of the group's total wealth, a divide that has grown steeper post-recession.

Last year, the median cash and investments for those 40 universities was $6.3 billion compared to $273 million for the rest. The report also shows that about 60 percent of gifts to schools last year went to the top 40 schools, leaving the other 460 or so scrambling for the remaining 40 percent.


All that cash at the top translates to student resources - from highly regarded faculty to new technology - that poorer schools aren't as equipped to offer.


The nation's richest schools, Harvard and Stanford among them, also tend to be the most elite. A recent study indicated that elite schools attract wealthy students, meaning poor kids who see college as a route to a better life are less likely to go to a top-resourced school.

The poorer schools would love to increase donations, but that would require increasing their cache and the caliber of the students with better faculty, facilities, and opportunities - things that are difficult to improve without monetary gifts. It's a Catch-22, with poor students, especially, caught in the middle.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.