Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard. Larry Page and Sergey Brin went to Stanford. So you might think your best chance of becoming a successful entrepreneur is to attend an elite private university--even if you wind up dropping out to start something big. But that isn't true. Plenty of publicly funded state colleges are churning out large numbers of successful entrepreneurs. 

That's a lucky thing, because, while a college education is never cheap, private college tuition costs an average of $32,556, according to federal government statistics. That means a four-year private education costs $130,264 before you even consider room and board. And elite schools such as Stanford--which produces more successful entrepreneurs than any other college--cost $200,000 or more over four years.

Tuition at public colleges is a much more manageable $6,817 a year on average. But which public colleges are effective at graduating students who'll go on to found successful companies? Fortunately, TechCrunch has done the math and identified 23 public colleges whose graduates got at least $1 million in funding for their startups within the past year.

You can find the full list here. These are the top five: 

1. UC Berkeley

--240 alumni founders raised at least $1 million in the past year

Berkeley is unique among public colleges. It's an elite college, difficult to get into, excelling in STEM subjects, and located just across the bay from startup epicenter San Francisco. It's also the only public college to make into TechCrunch's top-ten list of all U.S. colleges to graduate entrepreneurs, competing head-to-head with prestigious private schools. In fact, it comes in third, beaten only by Stanford and MIT.


--85 alumni founders raised at least $1 million in the past year

Like UC Berkeley, UCLA is considered a "Public Ivy"--that is, a state school whose quality of education and prestige put it on a par with the Ivy League. U.S. News & World Report ranks it as the best public college in the nation. And UCLA turns 100 years old this year.

3. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

--76 alumni founders raised at least $1 million in the past year

Another Public Ivy, "UMich" is over 200 years old. It was founded in 1817 as the University of Michigania, back before the territory became a state. The school is famous as a research university, and several of IBM's early innovations were developed with UM personnel.

4. University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign)

--63 alumni founders raised at least $1 million in the past year

UIUC has a lot of impressive assets, including the second largest university library by holdings (beaten only by Harvard), and the fastest supercomputer on a university campus. It also hosts the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where Mosaic, the first graphical web browser was developed. Microsoft Internet Explorer/Edge and Mozilla Firefox were both based on Mosaic. No wonder Bill Gates said, during a 2004 talk on campus, that Microsoft hires more graduates from UIUC than any other university in the world.

5. University of Washington (Seattle)

--61 alumni founders raised at least $1 million in the past year

"UDub," as locals affectionately call it, is a sprawling campus located north of Downtown Seattle. It has deep ties to the region's iconic startups. In fact, Bill Gates and Paul Allen spent many hours in UW computer labs working on something called Traf-O-Data, a company that took raw traffic data collected by municipalities and translated it into reports those municipalities could use. The two founders "made a little bit of money and had some fun," Gates said later, until the state of Washington began offering the same service for free, and they moved on to found Microsoft. 

Published on: May 30, 2019
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