As entrepreneurship continues to grow in popularity with college students, the nation's entrepreneurial centers are responding with more classes, teachers, and programs focused on the business of entrepreneurship, according to a new study by the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Indiana University.
The study found 533 percent growth in the number of schools offering courses and programs in entrepreneurship since the 1980s. "These findings will be extremely useful to budding entrepreneurial centers as well as colleges and universities looking to start their own programs," said Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of the Johnson Center, who headed the project.
During the early 1980s, more than 300 universities reported courses in small business and entrepreneurship. Within a decade, that number had grown to 1,050 schools. Today, entrepreneurial education includes more than 2,200 courses at more than 1,600 schools, 277 endowed faculty positions, 44 academic journals, and nearly 150 research centers.
The average age of all responding entrepreneurial centers is 8.3 years. Centers that were ranked in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report's annual list, which Kuratko used as a basis for the study, have an average age of 11.9 years, while honorable mention centers have an average age of 7.7 years.
Every program responding to the survey said it employs full-time faculty with experience starting or operating their own businesses. Ranked centers averaged 2.9 faculty members with entrepreneurial experience, whereas non-ranked centers averaged 1.2 faculty members, according the survey.
"The ideal faculty member would have a mix of real-world experiences as well as strong academic credentials," Kuratko said. "They would be able to share their real world experiences as well as examples from their academic research."
Seventy-five percent of entrepreneurship directors surveyed said their programs have a heavy academic focus, as opposed to centers established to help existing businesses. Entrepreneurship programs are successful when there is a direct link with the university's other academic programs, according to Kuratko.
In the study, program directors also cited endowments as crucial to the reputation and success of their programs. Top-ranked programs brought in $10,409,500 more endowment money than non-ranked centers. However, endowments usually don’t come until the center has a longer track record. "So many centers have less than $500,000 in endowments," said Kuratko, "It's not surprising because they are new, and build the credibility to become more visible to sponsors."
Small-business owners have many opportunities to become involved with their local colleges and universities, according to Kuratko. "Existing entrepreneurs could serve as an advisory board member to existing entrepreneurial centers, assist professors in classrooms, or donate financially," he said. "By giving back to an entrepreneurial center, existing successful entrepreneurs have the ability to impact many more young entrepreneurs."
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