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Colleges and universities can help support small and local businesses through entrepreneur accelerator programs.

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Half of Gen Z say they aspire to be entrepreneurs or to start their own business, according to a November 2023 survey. But for many, traditional college coursework doesn’t offer them opportunities to dabble in entrepreneurship or get hands-on training in the field.

To bridge this gap, colleges and universities offer experiential-learning spaces specifically for budding entrepreneurs to learn about the challenges and triumphs of business ownership and personal ventures.

Inside Higher Ed collected three different types of accelerator programs highlighting entrepreneurship education for various campus community members and how training can promote local economic growth and student success.

For students and alumni: At the University of Denver, learners can participate in a summer program called BASE Camp, a five-week program for startups to grow their idea, find a market fit and create value, according to the university’s website. Students can apply as members of a team of up to five. The program was expanded recently to include alumni applicants.

Each team commits to 16 to 24 hours of work per week on campus and receives a $5,000 stipend and in-kind funding. One new venture as a result of the program is a custom shoe-painting business, owned by Zak Mbereko, that designed shoes for the University of Denver gymnastics team, the Colorado College hockey team and created a specialty design for the Colorado University athletic director.

Starting this year, Saint Louis University will also support alumni and students with an entrepreneur startup program, thanks to donations from business school alumni. Program participants must be current students or recent graduates (within the past five years) and will receive investments of up to $50,000. The accelerator program will start this month and run for 14 weeks, led by staff from the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship.

For community members: Patrick & Henry Community College in Virginia partnered with the local Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce to offer an eight-week boot-camp program for startups in the region, StartUp MHC. The initiative also includes a four-week bootcamp (Grow MHC) for growing companies that have been in business for two years or longer, capturing working adults in the community who may need extra educational support.

The college delivers the boot camp sessions in partnership with other local businesses, groups and entrepreneurs. The program launched in 2015 and, as of 2023, has graduated 314 individuals and awarded 74 businesses with over $571,000 in cash and in-kind funding, mostly to woman-owned or minority-owned businesses, according to the chamber of commerce.

As a result of the program, the region has seen $4.5 million in capital investments and 225 new jobs created, with an 85 percent two-year success rate for small businesses.

Similarly, the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation partnered with an Arkansas-based venture partner to create an emergency technology startup accelerator, but the program also provides paid internships for U of A students through the Venture Intern Program. Each of the 10 participating businesses will host an intern to develop their professional skills and promote recruitment of local talent.

For entrepreneurs with disabilities: To help all students achieve their dreams, Gallaudet University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute partnered with 2Gether-International (2GI) to create programming for deaf and hard-of hearing entrepreneurs.

2GI creates materials for disabled entrepreneurs and founders, and university officials worked with the organization’s team to translate content into ASL and make content more relevant to a deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Starting September 2022, the new materials were integrated into Gallaudet’s six-week accelerator program.

Do you have a career prep tip that might help others encourage student success? Tell us about it.

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