Five College Towns Where Entrepreneurship Works

by Stuart Nachbar, Daytripper University Contributor *

Whenever I’ve left Yankee Stadium after a win, Frank Sinatra’s voice fills the air with ‘New York, New York’ stating “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” I’ve met native-born New Yorkers who are determined, self-made and resilient. But is New York City the best place for a college student to launch a business? If you’re already from New York, and you go to an inexpensive school to get the education you need, such as the Entrepreneurship program at Baruch College it just might be. But for those who come from out of town, the Big Apple might be too costly or too intimidating. The same can be true for other large cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or San Francisco. Are there other options? What about college towns that are not in big cities? 

For a college town to be an effective hub for future entrepreneurs, it should not only offer academic opportunities; it should also be a place where adults, once they're no longer students, will never tire of living in. The educational program a school offers does not need to be a major in Business or Entrepreneurship, but there should be an opportunity to acquire business skills within the program.  The costs should be low, whenever possible,  so students may spend more time building their business, not accumulating a large student loan debt. Even better, the school should be in a position to provide capital and personalized advice to help promising ideas come to life. 

Here are five that I would consider to be among the best.


Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is a “best buy” with Californians who want to learn entrepreneurship in a very nice college town that has lower living costs than Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Silicon Valley.  The university offers a concentration as well as a minor in Entrepreneurship within its business school as well as its own business incubator where students may compete for prizes, receive consulting, become consultants, and launch their own ventures. This is a more selective school than most, but it is the best value in California for pre-professional studies, especially in Agriculture, Business and Engineering. San Luis Obispo has all of the sunshine California is famous for, in one of the nicest college towns, but note life does go at a more relaxed pace. 


University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, aka ‘Carolina’ has expanded its Entrepreneurship minor through an $18 million gift from five generations of alumni. The gift enables the university to fund 70 student internship opportunities, among other benefits. This program enrolls more than 250 students and has produced over 800 alumni to date. It’s very competitive to get into Carolina, even for a resident, but the university is also one of the best buys in the country. Chapel Hill and nearby Carrboro offer a variety of living options during and long after college in one of the best college towns in America, with one of the most beautiful and best-preserved campuses of any large university. Carolina also has one of the most successful sports programs, a power not only in Men’s and Women’s Basketball but also Baseball, Field Hockey, Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse and Men’s and Women’s Soccer.


University of Michigan

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Entrepreneurship minor, housed within Innovate Blue, is a hub for more than 15 entrepreneurial opportunities within the undergraduate colleges, graduate and professional schools as well as more than 30 entrepreneurial student organizations. Innovate Blue also has its own collaborative student work and design space within the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. Ann Arbor, like Chapel Hill, is also long recognized as one of the best college towns for students and adults to live. But unlike, Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan’s non-resident tuition and fees rival those of Ivy League universities and other extremely selective schools. (If you walk across “the Diag,” you might feel that you indeed at an Ivy League school, just one with a very large population. ) You might also know Michigan as a “football school,” but it has also been a national power in Men’s Basketball, Hockey and Lacrosse.

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University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati (UC) offers a major and minor in Entrepreneurship with Freshman Fast Track courses, as well as opportunities to incubate your business, enter competitions and seek funding. UC was the first school in America to offer cooperative education, aka ‘co-op’ where students alternate between semesters of classroom instruction and full-time employment over three years, allowing prospective entrepreneurs to experience employment in a start-up venture before they fully commit to their own. UC also has one of the nicer urban campuses in the country and feels far less crowded or congested than Ohio State.  It is also one of the best “basketball schools” in its conference. Living costs in Cincinnati are much lower than they are in the other cities where universities offer extensive co-op programs: Atlanta (Georgia Tech), Boston (Northeastern) and Philadelphia (Drexel). So are the costs of an education, even if you don’t come from Ohio. 


University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire, an hour’s train ride from Boston, offers a major and minor in Entrepreneurship, achievable scholarships, and a business incubator with resources available to all students in all majors. It is also the smallest school among the five profiled, with about 13,000 undergraduates. While the university is a “hockey school,” its football team has competed in championship playoffs each year since 2004.  Durham, while easily accessible to Boston by car or train, is a far more relaxed college town than the others covered here, even more than San Luis Obispo. Plus the costs of living and doing business in New Hampshire is far less than in Massachusetts, especially compared to Boston. 

These are only five of the many college towns where budding entrepreneurs can kickstart their business ideas, and remain in town to build upon them. You don’t need to be a business major to have a brilliant idea for a business, but it helps to be in a school as well as a community that can help turn your idea into something real. 

* As founder of Educated Quest, Stuart Nachbar provides personalized college, transfer and graduate/professional school admissions advisory services to help students and parents make the best-informed decisions their future education. Having worked around higher education for over three decades as an admissions advisor, author, urban economic development professional and senior-level software marketing executive, he knows the “inside baseball” about how colleges do business. Stuart holds a BA and MBA from Rutgers University, a Master of Urban Planning for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Certificate in College Admissions Counseling (with Distinction) from UCLA. He and his wife, Carol, live in Central New Jersey.