Private vs Public Education: Which Top Schools Create More Prominent Business Leaders?

U.S. News has published their 2018 Best Colleges rankings, and we couldn’t help but wonder—is the cost of private undergraduate education really worth it? How do career paths differ between graduates of public and private schools?

To find out, we compared the business prominence of grads in the 90th percentile from the top public and private universities. We took into account each person’s current and previous roles, associated companies, social influence, and a variety of other factors.

This year’s top private universities are Princeton (#1), Harvard (#2), University of Chicago (#3 – tie), and Yale (#3 – tie).

The top public universities are University of California – Berkeley (#21 – tie), University of California – Los Angeles (#21 – tie), University of Virginia (#25), and University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (#28).

What we found:

  • While the rankings of top private and public school grads are fairly close soon after leaving school, private school graduates eventually have much higher business prominence than public school grads—a trend that has held true over time.
  • Although Stanford and MIT tied for 5th place in the latest U.S. News ranking, their graduates had higher overall business prominence than grads from the top private universities—Princeton, Harvard, University of Chicago, and Yale.
  • The difference between all students versus graduates of Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and UCLA wasn’t very pronounced until the early 80s, when these schools began producing graduates that went on to outperform the average.

Accomplished business leaders can come from anywhere. While we’re confident that anyone can become successful, a private university education can make a big difference.

As seen in the chart above, these execs rank quite high relative to their graduating class:

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Accompany ( is a relationship intelligence platform for professionals that was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Los Altos, California. Available for mobile, the web, and as a Gmail extension, Accompany’s intelligent, adaptive chief of staff app serves professionals everything they need to know about the important people in their network, anytime they need it. Accompany is funded by CRV, Cowboy Ventures, ICONIQ Capital, and Ignition Partners, and led by Amy Chang, Matthias Ruhl, and Ryan McDonough.