Extra Credit

Big Major on Campus

Entrepreneurship education has clearly arrived on the academic scene, as endowed professorships, research funding, scholarships, and even entire departments of entrepreneurship multiply on campuses across the nation. Behind the proliferation of technology-transfer programs, multidisciplinary curricula and swelling enrollments is another perhaps more profound but less visible trend: a change in the esteem in which entrepreneurship is held.

The boom in entrepreneurship education in the last decade, to a considerable degree, reflected universities' pursuit of donations from entrepreneurial alumni. While that allure lasted, entrepreneurship education was on probation in the view of many academics. But now that the dotcom dollars have dried up, entrepreneurship is still around and has become a significant and lasting component for literally hundreds of higher education institutions.

Behind that is yet another change: a shift in regarding entrepreneurship education less as a business school subject, or how-to instruction on starting a business, and more as a way of approaching behavior. Interest in entrepreneurial processes is permeating universities and corporations, where starting an enterprise isn't necessarily the desired end result.

"Our purpose is to develop or uncover in students their own entrepreneurial perspective," says Kuratko. "We're trying to make them understand they have a creative and innovative side that can be used and applied at the proper time in their lives. For our economy to excel in the 21st century, we need entrepreneurial thinkers. That's what we're preparing our young people to be."

Changing of the Guard
Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School are recognized as among the best sources of business education in the United States, if not the world. So it was no surprise when Entrepreneur's 2003 rankings placed both schools' entrepreneurship education programs in the top tier. This year, however, both were replaced in the top tier by other programs. Given that neither school made significant changes to its entrepreneurship offerings, what's the explanation? In a word: focus.

"This list is not 'top business schools' overall, including finance, international business, marketing and such," reminds David Newton, whose company, Santa Barbara, California-based TechKnowledge Point, compiled data for the 2003 and 2004 rankings. "This ranking is only entrepreneurship. We measure more than 60 separate program dimensions, and schools like Arizona, DePaul, Maryland and others have made entrepreneurship their flagship effort. They now have some of the best course offerings, faculty, special initiatives and opportunities for venturing."

Newton also says rankings move based on a change of relatively few points in a school's score, or in that of other schools. "The reality is, Harvard and Wharton are still in the top 50 schools in the United States," he says. "But the rankings do place them within a given [tier of schools] in the top 50 that are most similar to them in terms of entrepreneurship."

To view the 2nd Annual Top Entrepreneurial Colleges and Universities listing, click here.

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This article was originally published in the May 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Extra Credit.

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