Not because of budgetary constraints or poor enrollment, mind you -- but because he "didn't understand the tangible value of such a program."
Really? In 2012, it's the "tangible value" of four years of liberal arts that should be called into question.
We keep telling young Americans that a bachelor's degree in history is as valuable as, say, a chemical engineering degree -- but it's just not true anymore. All degrees are not created equal. And if we -- parents, educators, entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders -- maintain this narrow-minded approach, then we are not just failing young indebted Americans and their families. We are harming the long-term vitality of our economy.
Unfortunately, the college president in the story above represents the norm. According to research conducted by Buzz Marketing Group and the Young Entrepreneur Council, 56 percent of students age 21-24 never had access to entrepreneurship classes at all; of those who did, 62 percent found them inadequate or poorly executed -- even though 92 percent agreed entrepreneurship education was vital to their success today. Talk about a disconnect.
Now, I realize this is new -- and often difficult -- territory for traditional academic institutions. How does a school validate entrepreneurship? And what parent wants to hear they are paying tens of thousands of dollars for their child to be an "entrepreneur"?
Look no further than institutions like Babson College, consistently ranked #1 for entrepreneurship. Since current president Len Schlesigner signed on -- in the midst of the Great Recession, no less -- Babson's faculty has pioneered its own teaching method, applying entrepreneurial thinking and hands-on learning to every aspect of campus life. Unlike other collegiate leaders, Schlesinger saw the recession as an opportunity to expand. With Babson faculty on board, he ambitiously coordinated stakeholders on and off campus, and formed departmental task forces to review curricula.
Today, every freshman who walks into Babson goes immediately to work with a team to create, develop, launch and manage a new business (and they donate their profits to nonprofits). Students spend just 14 hours a week in class -- the other 154 are spent elsewhere, in special interest housing or working on student-led initiatives. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a course.
Programs like Babson's are worth emulating not merely because they create the next generation of business owners and freelancers (independent workers are an especially fast-growing category). These programs enable students to think entrepreneurially -- to seize opportunity, take risks and create wealth. Simply put, entrepreneurship education gives young people a toolkit to apply their field of study to the real world.
It also makes them more employable. A recent report from Junior Achievement Innovation Initiative and Gallup found that both employers and employees believe America's workforce must become more entrepreneurial if the U.S. is to remain competitive -- 95 and 96 percent, respectively. Only one in 10 believed entrepreneurship was an innate skill.