Alternative Business Schools

As every entrepreneur knows, there are many routes to success beyond the traditional classroom.
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This story appears in the October 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The School of Hard Knocks
Concentrations: Finance, social policy, entrepreneurship
Total enrollment: The entire U.S. lower and middle classes
Annual tuition: Your dignity
Teacher-student ratio: 1 to 300 million
Students who graduate within four years: Very few
Rolling admission: Yes
Acceptance rate: 100 percent
Students receiving financial aid: 0 percent
Average starting salary after graduation: $7.25 an hour
Notable alumnus: Oprah Winfrey

Dropout U
Concentration: Information technology
Annual tuition: $0
Students who graduate within four years: 0
Students who graduate within six years: 0
Students who graduate, ever: 0
Degrees offered: 0
Extracurricular activities: Devising something world-changing in your basement
Notable alumni: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates

The Streets
Concentrations: Pharmaceutical management, supply-chain management, human resources
Total enrollment: Your crew
Average age at entry: 14
Evening program: Yes
Part-time program: Hell, no
Notable alumnus: Jay-Z

Online University
Concentrations: "Finance," "Information systems," "Marketing," "Accounting"--and more!
Annual tuition: Cheap!
Academic calendar: "Semesters"
Evening and weekend programs: Yeah. Or, like, whenever.
Average starting salary after "graduation": Uh, competitive?
Accreditation: "Yes"
Notable alumnus: Shaquille O'Neal (MBA, University of Phoenix, '05)

Five Years in the Wilderness
Concentrations: Foraging, fishing, hunting
Total enrollment: 1
Average age at entry: 19
Room and board: Makeshift
Extracurricular activities: Whittling
Evening programs: Yes, but not safe
Meal plan: Depends on what you mean by "meal." And "plan."
Notable alumnus: Chris McCandless (1968-1992)

Boxing Career
Concentrations: Jabbing, bobbing, weaving, narcissism
Average age at entry: 20
Average age at graduation: 48
Room and board: We'll start you out in the room in the back. There's a cot in there. It ain't a palace but it's a place to rest your head. Lights out at midnight, kid. And no girls!
Prerequisite: A toothy but captivating smile
Extracurricular activities: Grilling sandwiches. On both sides. At the same time.
Notable alumnus: George Foreman

Concentrations: Weight lifting, reading whatever's in the prison library
Total enrollment: 2.5 million
Annual tuition: Free
Room and board: Included
Academic calendar: One day at a time
Total faculty: The number of convicts who've been there longer than you
Internship opportunities: Not really, no
Meal plan: Yes!
Current students: Jeffrey Skilling, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernard Madoff, Bernie Ebbers, Sam Israel, John Rigas, Timothy Rigas and so on ...

Edition: March 2017

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