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Top-Tier Tech Degree Is Not Business Silver Bullet

A degree from a top-tier university does not confer a greater probability of success in high-tech entrepreneurship than a degree from a mid-range university, according to a recent study of immigrants who took degrees in the United States and went on to found high tech firms.

The study by the Kauffman Foundation and reported by Investors Business Daily was based on interviews with 144 Indian, Chinese, and Taiwanese immigrant company founders and surveys of 1,572 companies in 11 tech centers across the country.

A high-tech entrepreneur's length of study and area of study is a much greater factor of success, according to the study. "It doesn't matter which university you get your degree at," Vivek Wadhwa, the study's lead author, told IBD. "What matters is the level and the field of education."

The survey found that more than half of the immigrant founders of high-tech firms (53 percent) earned their highest degrees from U.S. universities. But no top-tier university in the United States or abroad got particular credit for producing tech entrepreneurs.

"From the U.S. perspective, MIT and Stanford didn't have any advantage in developing successful entrepreneurs over some small university in the Midwest," Wadhwa told the IBD.

But the trend also holds true for other world high-tech hotbeds. In India, where it is assumed most-high tech entrepreneurs pass through Bangalore's famed India Institute of Technology, the survey found that the IIT graduated only 15 percent of Indian tech company founders.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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