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Does Entrepreneurship Education Have Value? Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught? Yes, According To Babson College Researchers

Release Date: 6/20/2011

What is the influence of entrepreneurship education on intentions to become entrepreneurs and becoming full-time entrepreneurs?  According to Babson College researchers:

• There is overwhelming evidence that taking two or more core entrepreneurship elective courses positively influenced the intention to become an entrepreneur and becoming an actual entrepreneur both at the time of graduation and long afterward.

• Writing a student business plan also had a significant influence, but it is not a strong as taking two or more core courses.

The findings are based on a sample of 3,755 Babson College alumni who graduated from 1985 to 2009, analyzed by Babson College Professors Julian Lange, Edward Marram, and William Bygrave and Ajay Solai Jawahar M’11 and Wei Yong M’11.

“It’s time to cast off the prejudiced question, ‘Why teach entrepreneurship?’, because we now have excellent empirical evidence that it makes difference.  We think that entrepreneurship should be taught not only for the production and training of entrepreneurs but also to help students decide if they have the right stuff to be entrepreneurs before they embark on careers for which they may be ill-suited,” they write.

“At a more abstract level, we believe that entrepreneurship should be taught to every business student because it is the very origin of all businesses—after all, there would be no business schools if there had never been any entrepreneurs!  Aristotle is reported to have stated that we do not understand a thing until we see it growing from its very beginning.  That alone is justification enough for why every business student should take a basic entrepreneurship course.”

According to the research, “Does An Entrepreneurship Education Have Lasting Value?  A Study Of Careers of 3,775 Alumni”:

• There is overwhelming evidence that taking two—or better yet three—entrepreneurship courses influences intentions to become entrepreneurs and to become actual entrepreneurs.  Taking only one course does not have nearly as strong an influence.  We think it may be because some students take one course and conclude that they don’t want to be entrepreneurs.

• There is powerful evidence that writing a business plan as a student influences both students’ entrepreneurial intentions and their becoming actual entrepreneurs; and it influences intentions of alumni to become entrepreneurs but does not influence their actually becoming entrepreneurs.

• The proportion of alumni entrepreneurs increases with the years after graduation.

• There is also strong evidence that the proportion of alumni with entrepreneurial intentions steadily declines after graduation but nonetheless endures for a long time.  This is probably due to several factors: the proportion of alumni realizing their intentions and actually becoming entrepreneurs increases with time after graduation; intentions decline as salaries increase; family commitment increases with years after graduation, which deters some alumni from giving up a salaried jobs to live life on the edge as neophyte entrepreneurs and risking their family’s financial security; and of course it is likely that the memory of taking entrepreneurship courses fades with time.

• We found no significant effect due to having parents who were entrepreneurs.

• Males were more likely than females to intend to become entrepreneurs and actually to become entrepreneurs.

• There was no difference between undergraduates and MBAs in intentions to become entrepreneurs and actually becoming entrepreneurs either when they were students, at graduation, or later when they were alumni.

• There was a hint that the higher their income, the less likely that alumni intend to become entrepreneurs.

• The greater their job dissatisfaction, the more likely that alumni have intentions to become entrepreneurs.

• Full-time students were more likely to have intentions to become entrepreneurs at graduation and later as alumni, but they were not more likely than part-time students to become actual entrepreneurs.

• Founding a full-time business before enrolling at Babson is the strongest influence on students becoming full-time entrepreneurs immediately at graduation and alumni becoming entrepreneurs.  For alumni entrepreneurs, it overshadows all other influences.  But it does not influence student or alumni intentions to become entrepreneurs.

• The control variable for students’ proclivity for entrepreneurship before enrolling at Babson and their expectation to have entrepreneurial careers afterward was highly significant.


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