Entrepreneurship education used to be a few courses taught in a few business schools. Then it became a lot of courses in a lot of business schools. Now it's becoming much more, including full-fledged doctoral degree programs, university departments, endowed professorships, and even a change in the way entire universities approach educating their students.
"The great new turf in the next three to four years is the massive support for 'entrepreneurship across the curriculum' efforts," says David Newton, founder and CEO of TechKnowledge Point Corp., the Santa Barbara, California-based venture research firm that compiled the data for Entrepreneur's 2nd Annual Top 100 Entrepreneurial Colleges and Universities.
Newton, who is also professor of entrepreneurial finance at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, and other entrepreneurship educators say the cross-curriculum movement promises to institutionalize entrepreneurial thinking in higher education outside of the business school, making it part of far more students' educations.
"It's having biology, sociology, pre-med, engineering and sports medicine students take one or two entrepreneurship courses during their studies," says Newton. The reason educators are embracing entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurial thinking is becoming recognized as fundamental to developing skills in analysis, communication, critical thinking, innovation and other competencies of higher education. "A high-quality liberal arts education is now viewed as a perfect complement to an entrepreneurship education and perspective, and vice versa."
Other educators see similar expansion of entrepreneurship education. "It's going beyond the traditional boundaries of business schools in terms of where it's located," says William B. Gartner, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. Indeed, entrepreneurship programs have sprung up at universities that don't even have business schools, appearing as part of sociology, engineering or other curricula.
While entrepreneurship is spreading across more curricula and institutions, it is also being refined, according to the results of our 2004 study. This year's ranking looked at an increasing number of characteristics to improve precision. Among the changes Newton describes are more carefully defining incubators and technology transfer initiatives, and allowing subcategories within program offerings where there's more than one focus.
More data and greater precision are good ideas from the prospective student's point of view, says Scott Shane, professor of economics and entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "There's getting to be a much greater divergence among the providers of entrepreneurship education," says Shane. "It matters more where you're getting your education. It used to be that everybody offered the same thing. Now people are focusing on different topics, using different tools, and applying different techniques in the classroom. It's more important to be an educated consumer."
Changes between the first rankings in 2003 and this year's are many but are mostly modest. Five programs, including Babson College; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; The University of Arizona; University of California, Berkeley; and University of Maryland, College Park, repeated as members of the top tier of national Comprehensive programs. Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), however, both dropped out of the top tier.
Ball State University; California State University, Fresno; St. Louis University; University of Oregon; and University of Portland appeared for a second year in the top tier of the regional Comprehensive program rankings. Elsewhere, new faces showed up, including Temple University among national reputation institutions and Auburn University in the regional group.