Joseph Picken, a professor who will administer the degree program, expects 25 students in the first year and 140 students by the fifth year.
"This new offering represents an important step toward national recognition of our outstanding programs in innovation and entrepreneurship," said Hasan Pirkul, dean of the UTD School of Management. "The degree is unique in its dual focus on technology-based innovation within both the mature corporation and the new venture start-up."
Students need 36 credit hours of evening and online classes, which could take two to three years. Until now, the closest the University of Texas system came to a master's in entrepreneurship was a master's in science and technology commercialization at UT Austin and a master's in management and technology at UT San Antonio.
Last week, UTD received a green light from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Interest in entrepreneurship education across the country has soared since emerging in the early 1970s. And two recessions in the last decade have led more laid-off workers to start businesses out of necessity. Nearly twice as many colleges offer a degree or certificate in entrepreneurial studies as in 1999, according to the College Entrance Examination Board. Federal data shows the graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship degrees awarded by colleges tripled in the last decade.
Growth was higher at public colleges, which account for nearly half of all entrepreneurship degrees. Private options In Texas, private universities such as Southern Methodist and Rice offer graduate entrepreneurial degrees, and Baylor University and the University of Houston have undergraduate programs. Jerry White, director of SMU's Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship in Dallas, doesn't view UTD as competition because the potential market is so large.
"Anything we do to build entrepreneurship capability nationally and in the D-FW area is just great," White said. He noted that UTD emphasizes technology-based business, while SMU has a broader focus. SMU has offered a 16-month master of science in entrepreneurship since 2007, with about 20 students a year.
It also offers an entrepreneurship concentration within its MBA program. It makes sense for UTD to start a master's program because that's where the growth is, said Kendall Artz, director of Baylor University's 33-year-old entrepreneurship program. "Historically, more attention has been placed in undergraduate entrepreneurship, so that market has been somewhat saturated," he said.
Baylor offers an entrepreneurship concentration in its MBA program, an undergraduate business major in entrepreneurship and a minor or certificate in entrepreneurship for other students. UTD has seen fast growth since it began offering entrepreneurship courses in 2002.
In 2006, it started the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to focus on technology-based start-up businesses. Picken is executive director. UTD's entrepreneurship enrollment averaged 43 percent growth a year over the last four years, adding up to about 1,000 students. "Our program in innovation and entrepreneurship is relatively young, but the rapid growth in enrollments confirms a high level of interest among our students," said Pirkul, the UTD management school dean. Fostering innovation The school offers entrepreneurship concentrations in its MBA and master's of management and administrative sciences degrees and an entrepreneurship certificate through continuing education. At the undergraduate level, it offers entrepreneurship as part of a business administration degree and as a concentration and minor.
UTD's new master's degree will cost the same as any other graduate program – $1,800 for a typical three-credit course for Texas residents. Demand has also come from the corporate world. Texas Instruments Inc. helped develop UTD's master's focus on mature companies as a way to foster innovation among its staff and to create more jobs. Steve Lyle, manager of education and workforce development for the Dallas-based company, estimates that 10 to 15 employees a year could enroll at UTD. "We have employees who have a lot of ideas about products, so how do they take these ideas and work through the innovation cycle ... to market?" Lyle said. "This is a program that allows another path to developing those skills." State colleges offer entrepreneurship programs "more as an institutional strategy for economic development and regional stewardship" than simply a new program, said George Mehaffy, vice president for academic leadership and change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Most students come from within 100 miles and return home after graduation, he said. The National Bureau of Economic Research found employment churn led to a net job creation rate of only 2 percent from 1977 to 2005, and most job growth comes from innovation and new ventures.
By SHERYL JEAN / The Dallas Morning News