These 8 Billionaires Dropped Out Of College Before Graduating

By on September 10, 2019 in ArticlesBillionaire News

While most billionaires do have their college degrees, there are a handful who dropped out – usually to found the company that made them a billionaire. About 32% of today's billionaires did not graduate from college. Of those who did, three times as many billionaires have degrees in the Arts than those who have degrees in Math, Finance, or Science. Now, we normally would not advocate for dropping out of college, except, well, these nine billionaires prove that not having a degree didn't stop them from becoming some of the wealthiest men in the world. That said, dropping out of school was not what made these men billionaires. A big idea, hard work, ambition, dedication, and passion is what made them billionaires.

Ralph Lauren

Dropped out of: Baruch College at The City College of New York

Source of wealth: fashion designer

Net Worth: $8.2 billion

Ralph Lauren famously founded his fashion line with a collection of men's neck ties. He later began to design men's clothes and eventually added a women's wear line. He currently owns 35 boutique shops in the US. Lauren has accumulated his net worth largely through the extreme popularity of his various clothing brands, including, most famously, Polo Ralph Lauren.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Jan Koum

Dropped out of: San Jose State University

Source of wealth: WhatsApp

Net Worth: $10 billion

Jan Koum immigrated to the United States from Ukraine with his mother and grandmother when he was 16 years old. They settled in a small, two bedroom apartment in Mountain View, California, able to do so only because of the assistance of a social support program. While the teenaged Koum worked at a grocery store, his mother babysat for a living so that the family could make ends meet. When he wasn't at work, Koum immersed himself in learning computer networking. At 18, he enrolled at San Jose State University to study programming. He landed a job at Yahoo in 1997 as an infrastructure engineer. In 2009, Koum, alongside Brian Acton, launched the messaging app WhatsApp, which he subsequently sold to Facebook for $19 billion. When Koum was signing the papers for the multi-billion dollar acquisition of his company, he chose to do it on the steps of the welfare office where he and his mother used to go to obtain their food stamps.

Mark Zuckerberg

Dropped out of: Harvard

Source of wealth: Facebook

Net Worth: $50 billion

As the now-famous story goes, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 from his Harvard dorm room. By the end of Facebook's first year, the fledgling social network had over one million users and Zuckerberg saw no reason to remain at Harvard. So, he dropped out during his sophomore year and moved to Silicon Valley to devote himself to Facebook full time. Chances are, had Zuckerberg not matriculated at Harvard for at least some time, Facebook probably wouldn't exist at all.

Ted Turner

Dropped out of: Brown University

Source of wealth: Turner Broadcasting

Net Worth: $2.2 billion

Ted Turner was actually expelled from Brown because he had his girlfriend living with him in his dorm room. He went on to become wildly rich and successful and Brown ended up bestowing a number of honorary degrees upon him.

David Geffen

Dropped out of: University of Texas

Source of wealth: Geffen Records

Net Worth: $6.9 billion

David Geffen was never much of a student. He graduated from high school with a C-/D+ average and attended three semesters at University of Texas at Austin before dropping out. He then enrolled at Brooklyn College and dropped out again, when he took a job in the entertainment industry. Ten years later, he founded Asylum Records. In 1980 he founded Geffen Records, and in 1990, DGC records. He is also one of the three co-founders of Dream Works SKG.

Michael Dell

Dropped out of: University of Texas

Source of wealth: Dell Computers

Net worth: $37 billion

Michael Dell was studying biology at the University of Texas because his parents wanted him to become a doctor. During his freshman year, he started building computers for friends. This turned out to make him a nice tidy amount of money. It wasn't long before he realized that his future was not in medicine, but in computers. He dropped out.

Larry Ellison

Dropped Out of: University of Illinois and  University of Chicago

Source of wealth: Oracle

Net Worth: $70 billion

Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison was born the son of a 19-year old single mother in the Bronx and adopted by his aunt and uncle in Chicago. He enrolled at the University of Illinois in 1962 and was named Science Student of the Year. During his sophomore year his adoptive mother died and he dropped out. The following fall he enrolled at the University of Chicago but soon dropped out to move to Northern California to work as a programmer for Amdahl Corporation. In 1977 he and two co-workers founded Software Development Corporation with Ellison as CEO. The company became known as Oracle.

Bill Gates

Dropped out of: Harvard

Source of wealth: Microsoft

Net Worth: $107 billion

Bill Gates is probably the world's most famous dropout. The Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist, and Giving Pledge architect regularly topped the list of the world's richest people, until Jeff Bezos overtook Gates in 2018. Gates enrolled at Harvard in 1973 and attended the university for two years before dropping out to build Microsoft with childhood friend Paul Allen. In 1975, they named their partnership Micro-Soft. In 1987 Bill Gates became the youngest self-made billionaire.

Articles Written by Amy Lamare
Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based writer covering business, technology, entertainment, philanthropy, and pop culture. She spent 8 1/2 years covering the entertainment industry for www.hsx.com. She has written for Los Angeles Magazine, Your Tango, Thinknum Media, and various airline magazines. Follow her on Facebook. Amy's favorite self-made billionaire is Sara Blakely.
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