DON'T EXPECT TO SEE STUdents rushing to start businesses after taking one of those new courses in entrepreneurship.
Such offerings have become a growth industry at colleges and universities. About 250 institutions now teach entrepreneurship, compared with a paltry 16 in 1970, according to Karl Vesper, chairman of the management department at the University of Washington's School of Business. Typically, the courses require students to conceive a new venture and write a business plan. Guest speakers drop by regularly, including bankers, lawyers, accountants, and venture capitalists, as well as entrepreneurs. Case studies are required reading for those courses.
But can the essence of entrepreneurship -- spotting niches and taking risks -- really be taught? Even Vesper, a pioneer in the field, is skeptical. "A class in entrepreneurship is not an entrepreneur factory," he says. "I question whether you can take a raw recruit and turn that person into an entrepreneur like an Army boot camp creates a soldier."
Jack Friedman, an entrepreneur and a university instructor, contends that students spend too much time focusing on anecdotal material rather than learning how to start a company. "Students don't need other people's stories," he says. "They need to be taught how to figure things out for themselves."
Furthermore, new MBAs seem more interested in finding a first resume-building job with a giant corporation. Recently, Friedman had to reschedule a class because of a conflicting event -- a party that was sponsored by American Telephone & Telegraph Co. "All my students wanted to go," he laments. "It was probably the best-attended event of the year."