Harvard University, which has the largest endowment in the country, has a total of $34.6 billion. To put into perspective just how much money that is, consider that the largest charitable foundation in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a total endowment of $37.3 billion.
Harvard had a 23% rate of return on their money last year.
If you project Harvard's endowment out using their historical rate of return they would have over half a TRILLION dollars in 20 years.
Schools with large endowments (at least $500 million) reported spending an average of 4.4 percent of their stockpiles in 2007. Meanwhile, those same schools made an average of over 19 percent on their money.
For what's been estimated to be about $300 million a year (less than 1 percent of their endowment's value) Harvard could completely waive tuition, room and board for every single one of their students. Instead, they announced an increase in those fees of about 3.5 percent for next year. Being a student at Harvard will now cost a staggering $47,215 a year.
Some politicians in Massachusetts have proposed a new tax on large university endowments. Under their proposal, all endowments over a billion dollars would be taxed at 2.5 percent, a rate any wealthy individual or corporation would salivate over. The tax would net the state over $1.4 billion a year. (Boston currently receives about $1.8 million a year from the school).