Universities in Competition like Start-ups

Entrepreneurship is no doubt the new “hot” thing to do. With the millennial generation more determined than ever to create their own path, colleges and universities have pressure to support creative thinking and innovation for wannabe entrepreneurs. How are they doing it?

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For example, Rice University offers academic courses in entrepreneurship strategy and financing, extracurricular start-up workshops and a summer program for students who want to start companies. Just this past August, they announced a multimillion-dollar “entrepreneurship initiative” to develop even more courses and programs in the subject.

Ten years ago, offering a few entrepreneurship courses, workshops and clubs might have suffice. However, now undergraduates have a sullen job market to dreadfully look forward to, while being inspired by billion-dollar success stories from Silicon Valley. They don’t want to go to university for one subject; they want to know how to convert their ideas into business or nonprofit ventures.

The race is on for top universities to support their students want to “innovate and disrupt.” Many are trying to create rich entrepreneurial ecosystems that were first established by Stanford and M.I.T. This includes academic courses, practical experience and an extended alumni advisory network.

As an example, Princeton offers a variety of entrepreneurship courses. But, in a report released in May, a university advisory committee concluded that Princeton had fallen behind competing schools that had made “major upgrades” to their programs. Amongst other issues, the report stated that Princeton had allotted “only 1,500 square feet” for student incubator and accelerator programs, “whereas Cornell has 364,000; Penn 200,000; Berkeley 108,000; Harvard 30,000; Stanford 12,000; Yale 7,700; N.Y.U. 6,000; and Columbia 5,000.” In November, Princeton celebrated the opening of a 10,000-square-foot Entrepreneurial Hub near campus. The university is also starting a summer internship program in Manhattan so that students can spend time at young companies.

The growth in campus entrepreneurship is clear, administrators say. In 1985, college campuses in the United States offered only about 250 courses in entrepreneurship, according to a recent report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which finances entrepreneurship education and training. In a study from 2013, more than 400,000 students were taking such courses. I am confident that this number has grown exponentially in the past two years as well.

I am in support of entrepreneurial education because I think that having an innovative mindset can make someone an asset to any company. Even if these student’s ventures fail and they end up working for someone else, they will be better workers, no doubt.

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