Despite Zuckerberg's success, Harvard and others are finding ways to keep young entrepreneurs from dropping out early

“When Mark Zuckerberg came to visit a couple of years ago, he said he might not have dropped out had the i-lab been around,” said Jodi Goldstein, the Managing Director of the Harvard Innovation Lab.

The Harvard Innovation Lab, or the i-lab, is an on-campus space for student entrepreneurs to build companies and learn about entrepreneurship. It opened about five years ago, just around the time when universities across the country started emphasising education for budding entrepreneurs.

This push within the academic community is largely due to pressure on student entrepreneurs, many of whom idolize Zuckerberg and other founders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: all incredible entrepreneurs, all college dropouts.

For Bill Aulet, the managing director at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurs, he doesn’t want dropping out of school to be an option for students.

“Our competition is students that say ‘I’m gonna drop out and go to Y-Combinator’,” Aulet said. “For a lot of students that’s the question because they think, ‘I’ll never get in again,’ so we have to provide value for them in an experience. We have to say you can pursue your entrepreneurial dreams here at MIT in an unparalleled way.”

In order to do that, MIT has been beefing up their entrepreneurial programs, now claiming to have over 50 courses in entrepreneurship and 70 different resources.

Many schools have followed suit, increasing the amount of programs available. The University of Michigan, for example, jumped from having two entrepreneurship programs on campus in 2008 to having upwards of 15 different programs today. Today the university has 200 students enrolled in their 2-year-old entrepreneurship minor.

According to Goldstein of Harvard, this push towards entrepreneurship education is working: “We found that while years ago people used to drop out to start their ventures, they now stay in school because they actually have more resources while they’re in school,” she said.

So who knows, if Zuckerberg was just a little younger maybe he would have a college degree, but then maybe we wouldn’t have Facebook? Go figure.

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