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Real estate undergrad programs see slow uptick in enrollment

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Enrollment in local real estate undergraduate programs is starting to inch back up after going through the downturn with the market.

“Enrollment is starting to pick up. It peaked in 2006 and as of 2011, we were at about half of our peak. And now, in the last couple years, we’ve picked up small amounts each year,” said Michael Lea, director of The Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate at San Diego State University.

“Like the industry, it’s cyclical. When the real estate market had the downturn, had a steep downturn, students got scared away from it -- more precisely, their parents got scared away and there was a drop in majors,” Lea said. “There’s been an up and down experience over the years.”

There are about 70 students enrolled in the undergraduate program at SDSU, and there were about 125 at its peak. SDSU’s focus is primarily on the undergraduate program, Lea said, and a specialization in real estate is offered through the school’s MBA program.

“We’re still a good ways away from the peak in 2006. I think it will probably be a couple years before we recover those numbers,” Lea said.

He said he tells students, “This is actually a very good time to get in, because we’re coming up the curve in the cycle. And by the time they get out in another two to three years, I think the market is going to be quite a bit better.”

The Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate was established in 2009 and is part of the College of Business Administration.

The Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego offers a major and minor in real estate and a graduate program. There are 51 majors and 39 minors enrolled and the graduate program averages between 20 and 25 students per cohort, said Annie Grand, student and alumni services manager for the Burnham-Moores Center.

The graduate program has maintained its enrollment, but experienced a slight dip this year because the market is coming back, Grand said. When the market had its downturn, people went back to school -- causing the graduate program to increase while the enrollment in the undergrad program decreased slightly.

Enrollment in the undergraduate real estate major stayed the same this year while the minor saw a slight decrease, Grand said. The school’s real estate major has been around for four years and the minor for seven or eight years.

Lea did not know the employment rate after graduation for all graduates of the major program, but said almost all of those in the school’s real estate society land jobs fairly soon after graduation. Students have also experienced success in being hired full time out of internships, he said.

Grand said she’s been seeing more jobs coming through in real estate positions, and she receives daily postings for internships and jobs that are real estate-related.

About 90 percent of the students in the graduate program at the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate are graduating with jobs, Grand said. Those jobs range from development positions to investment, financial analysts and acquisitions positions.

Students at SDSU also enter into varied positions post graduation.

“Commercial brokerage, residential brokerage, property management, appraisal, finance,” Lea said. “A lot will tell you they want to be developers, but you don’t usually go immediately into development, you have to learn the business.”

SDSU is planning to add a specialization in property management at the undergraduate level for next year, Lea said. He is still waiting for funding, and once that’s in place the school will market the program, and discuss hiring lecturers and developing course content.

Grand said the Burnham-Moores Center is introducing two new courses: A real estate marketing class will be introduced in the fall and a real estate asset management class in the spring.

“We think that will increase numbers as well as far as major and minor [enrollment],” Grand said.

Grand said the Burnham-Moores Center serves as a “bridge between students and the industry.”

“We try to get students out in front of those who are running the industry. That sets us apart from other programs,” Grand said. “A lot of the real estate community is aware of the Burnham-Moores Center and the caliber of its students, and they keep coming back asking for students available for internships and jobs.”

The Burnham-Moores Center hosts company visits, site tours, networking events and an annual career expo specifically for real estate.

Lea said there are extracurricular activities offered through SDSU’s Corky McMillin Center to enhance learning opportunities. Three times each semester, 10 students are taken on a Saturday to a professional’s office to get a “real, in depth feel” for what the professional does each day.

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