As in many areas of our society these days, in the case of colleges, there are haves and have-nots.

The 20 colleges that received the most grant money in the last fiscal year accounted for about 28% of the total $ 46.73 billion paid to universities during this period. They serve only 1.6% of the country's 19.9 million undergraduate students. It is based on an analysis of the annual survey of voluntary support for education, published by the Council for Advancement and Support to Education, an association of members of development professionals, relationships with alumni and related fields for educational institutions.

According to US News & World Report School, donations received in donations Number of undergraduate students Harvard University $ 1,418,702,174 6,766 Stanford University 1,097,060 553 7,062 Columbia University 1,1009 702,418 6,616 University of California – 1 Los Angeles $ 786,650,878 31,002 University of California-San Francisco $ 730,068,012 0 Johns Hopkins University $ 729- $ 599 27 6109 University of Pennsylvania $ 717,529-890 & # 39; 39; University of Notre Dame $ 502,771,320 $ 8,576 New York University 502,407,219 26,417 University of Michigan 490,035 112,112 28,983 Massachusetts Institute of Technology $ 469,932,565 4,547 Ohio State University $ 436,973,769 45,946 University of California -Berkeley 419 365 625 30 3074 University of Indiana 408 461 793 33 429

The investigation is the last proof that a small group of colleges is getting our country's attention and resources, even as regional and public community colleges are carrying out the task of educating nearly 20 million students in the country. It also fuels critics who claim that the country's richest schools are not using enough of their resources to become the engines of economic mobility, we generally imagine institutions of higher education.

A self-maintained system built on wealth

"If, say, in three decades [a major donation] I think it would be very difficult to argue that this money should have been used for a more immediate cause. "

– Jonathan Meer, economist at Texas A & M University

"The important charitable giving to the richest schools is essentially the result of a cycle that rewards wealth at every stage of the process," said Ben Miller, senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, a leftist think tank. As a general rule, said Miller, these schools start relatively rich and register a large part relatively affluent students who then get lucrative jobs hard to get without these elite degrees.

These rich graduates then turn around and return this money to their relatively rich alma mater. "This begs the question of why donors choose to do it," said Miller.

Miller acknowledged that super-rich university donors seem to be doing more to use their money to increase opportunities for low-income students or other underrepresented students in higher education. . Michael Bloomberg focused his $ 1.8 billion donation at Johns Hopkins University last year on financial aid.

Nevertheless, expanding access to the country's elite universities, where most mega-donations in higher education end up, would do little to broaden access to the college as a whole, as these Schools only educate a small portion of the country's students, Miller said.

"If these donations were really motivated by a broader goal of improving college completion, for example, they would certainly go to large regional schools and four-year community colleges," he said. .

"What happens to all causes that do not please their quirks? What happens to all the universities that do not fill them with nostalgia? & # 39;

– Anand Giridharadas, the author of "Winners Take All"

It's not just education – donations fund hospitals and museums on campus

Of course, donations to renowned brand universities are motivated by a variety of factors, other than simply increasing access and completion of higher education. Ann Kaplan, Senior Director of the Voluntary Education Support Program, said that the schools that collect most of the donations to colleges are multi-purpose non-profit organizations: hospitals, art museums, research centers, and others. institutions that may be of interest to donors.

"You can send donors to hospitals, research centers and arts organizations that go beyond the interest of donors who focus more on the educational aspect of the institution," Kaplan said.

This is very different from community or regional colleges, perhaps more focused on teaching. These colleges do not have as long as private, nonprofit colleges, but Kaplan hopes that as their development efforts grow, community colleges will raise more money because they have good arguments to make. .

Donations can have "societal benefits in the distant future"

Currently, donors to wealthy, multi-faceted higher education institutions can bet that gifts to these schools can have a major impact beyond simply expanding college access said Jonathan Meer, economist at Texas A & M University. studies charitable giving and the economics of education.

"The question is which universities are doing basic research that could generate significant societal benefits in the distant future," Meer said. "If, say, in three decades [a major donation] I think it would be very difficult to argue that this money could have been used for a more immediate cause. "

For some donors, the idea of ​​expanding access to the elite, to relatively small institutions can probably have a coaching effect, may be attractive, said Meer . Because these schools produce graduates who have a disproportionate influence, attracting more low-income or under-represented students can potentially change the lives of more than students who directly benefit from education.

Nevertheless, Meer notes that as a researcher in economics of altruism, he is well aware that donors have prestige motivations to give. "They value themselves by consuming to be celebrated, to have seen their name," he said. "Maybe seeing your name on your alma mater means more to you than seeing your name on something else."

And in fact, colleges with the highest number of graduatesAccording to Wealth-X, which monitors wealthy individuals, it is one of the 20 schools that received the most donations last year.

The disproportionate power of the rich is the sign of a broken down system, says one critic

Anand Giridharadas, author of the report, says that the fact that rich people have so much discretion to determine which causes and institutions have the most resources is a sign of system failure. "The winners all take"A book that examines how rich people use philanthropy to maintain their power.

According to Giridharadas, this system allows the rich to accumulate wealth at the expense of institutions and those who might have more money if the rich paid more taxes. This system then allows these rich to "fund in deprived all kinds of causes, including education, according to their golden whims, "Giridharadas said.

"What happens to all causes that do not please their quirks? What happens to all universities that do not fill them with nostalgia? ", Did he declare. "Unfortunately, rich guys who decide to give something where they want is rarely aligned with what would have the most impact."

One of the ways that colleges could start doing more to align these donations to the impact is to prevent donors from dictating how their money is spent, Giridharadas said. For example, schools could choose to invest money in all causes – be it financial aid, research, or something else – that they think would best serve their purpose. mission, he said.

"When you're 19 years old, walking in a nice quad and seeing the names of hedge fund managers is not very inspiring," he said.

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