Fifth-richest: Stanford University
Endowment funds last year: $17 billion
Change from previous year: 19.1%
Students last fall: 19,945
Undergraduate tuition: $52,860 for tuition, room and board for the 2011-12 academic year

For a school whose most famous graduates were dropouts (see Google ( GOOG) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or the founders of Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Sun Microsystems ( JAVA), for starters), Stanford University has a generous alumni community that last year contributed more than 36% of the year's $709 million raised for the fifth-largest endowment of any university in the U.S.

The money funds 20% of the school's operating budget, allowing Stanford to maintain a top-notch level of instruction that is perhaps so good it allows star pupils to drop out and get rich before getting their degrees.

If you liked this article you might like

How to Get a Piece of the Private Space Race

How to Save on Your Midlife Crisis

Study Less, Save More: Your Guide to Graduating Early

Real Madrid Announces $1B Luxury Resort Island

The Next Big Thing: Portable Projectors Take Quantum Leap