As the race to become the next Mark Zuckerberg intensifies among millennials, a growing demand for more entrepreneurial programs has prompted several universities to make additions to their curricula.
According to The New York Times, Rice University in Houston, TX is one of many colleges that have added more start-up workshops and summer business programs, to help students gain the knowledge they need before starting a business endeavor.
In August, Rice announced its new “entrepreneurship initiative.” The program will involve developing more business-related courses and eventually constructing an entrepreneurial center to house start-up classes and services.
“We want Rice to be…at the top of the list of schools that prospective students with entrepreneurial aspirations say would be a good place to realize their ambitions,” said David W. Leebron, Rice’s president.
Rice’s entrepreneurship initiative mirrors the progress of other universities that are providing students with the tools and education they need to launch a successful start-up.
The innovations arms race is particularly prevalent in elite institutions, including NYU and Harvard University. In 2011, Harvard opened the Innovation Lab, a business-focused workshop for students that has already helped start more than 75 companies.
According to Inhabitat, one of the Innovation Lab’s start-ups is already making some noise in the Massachusetts business community. Getaway, a micro-home rental business, builds tiny homes that can be rented for $99 a night in wooded areas near Boston.
While start-up stories like Getaway support the development of these new entrepreneurial programs, there are skeptics who believe that these universities are merely taking advantage of students’ dreams to build the next Facebook.
About 25% of businesses fail after their first year, and some experts contend that colleges are simply parroting the recent trend of “innovate and disrupt” without providing students with feasible solutions to real-life problems.
“A lot of these universities want to get in the game and serve this up because it’s hot,” said Gordon Jones, dean of the new College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University in Idaho.
“The ones that are doing it right are investing in resources that are of high caliber and equipping students to tackle problems of importance,” Jones added.
Heidi Neck, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Babson College in Wellesley, MA, believes that many of these new programs do not teach students the basic fundamentals of not only starting a business, but sustaining it.
“Just because you have a nice space and a laundry list of entrepreneurship activities doesn’t mean there is an effective story around that program, or that students know how to navigate their way around those resources,” said Neck.
Despite the reservations of those who doubt the sincerity of these programs, it seems as if universities will continue investing in entrepreneurship initiatives to attract more business-minded students.