In 1975, U.S. colleges and universities offered just 100 entrepreneurship majors, minors and certificates across the country, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
In 1985, the number grew to 250.
The most recent count, from 2008, had some 5,000 entrepreneurship courses taken by 400,000 students from 9,000 faculty.
The increase is "massive" and only growing, said Amisha Miller, senior scholar in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based philanthropy that focuses on education and entrepreneurship.
"I can tell you roughly, from initial data, that trend is still going up," Miller said.
One challenge is attracting students who are outside the traditional business school, she said. To bring in a wide array of students from a cross-section of disciplines, the foundation invested millions in campuses from 2003 to 2010.
In its work, the foundation has identified some of the building blocks of successful programs. They include business incubators and accelerators, business plan competitions and "idea-gathering events," networking programs, internships bridging university life with outside careers, scholarships and other incentives, and traditional supervised coursework.
"Universities that are at the cutting edge – these are the kinds of things they're doing," Miller said.
The University of Montana offers most of those ingredients, albeit to varying degrees. Miller and the foundation are familiar with the Blackstone LaunchPad, UM's interdisciplinary program for entrepreneurs based in the University Center, because its aim to reach a variety of students is similar to one of the foundation's goals.
"Actually, we had a researcher who went to visit Montana because they are doing really interesting things," Miller said.
Although higher education has placed a focus on entrepreneurship here and nationally, the end game varies. Miller said two clear camps exist, with one group of people wanting to be sure students are problem-solvers ready to start careers, and the other group more focused on specific training based on market needs.
Last week, the foundation released a ranking that put Montana as the No. 1 state for entrepreneurship the fourth year in a row.