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Can you actually teach people to be entrepreneurs? That question is open to debate. But a recent Zogby survey indicates that educational institutions need to do more to support entrepreneurial programs, and the best way to do that is to encourage students to actually create new businesses or take internships at startups.

In other words, you’re better off learning by doing than sitting behind a desk in some classroom. According to the survey, commissioned by Cogswell College, 73 percent of Americans say that the best way to teach a student to become an entrepreneur is to enable them to create businesses or intern.

“Some entrepreneurs may be born while others made, but what is true is that all of them need to develop and hone the skills needed to create and grow a business,” said Douglas Mellinger, a trustee at Silicon Valley’s Cogswell College. “We need to reinvent the way we prepare our students to enter the business world by enabling them to start and run businesses while in school.”

Educational institutions such as the University of Washington have moved in this direction in recent years, supporting business plan competitions and other entrepreneurial offerings.

Nonetheless, only five percent of Americans think that college is where students become entrepreneurs, according to the survey. Among the 18 to 24 age group, only two percent said that the most effective way to become an entrepreneur is through traditional classwork. Sixty two percent said it was through creating a small business or joining a startup as an intern.

What’s at stake?

Ninety-three percent of the respondents said that entrepreneurship is “very important” to the future competitiveness of the American economy.

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