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Education, education, education

In January, the U.S. government released a report on what caused the financial meltdown of 2008.

Of course, every American has already read it, front to back, perhaps even multiple times, and to their children, so there’s no need for me to go into too many details about its findings.

By the way, it made it on the New York Times’ list of best-selling nonfiction books, but so did “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.”

I’m just saying.

But for those who haven’t gotten around to reading it (the government report, that is, not “Bang Bang”) I’ll summarize the key findings in the next two paragraphs.

The popping of the housing bubble “was the spark that ignited a string of events, which led to a full-blown crisis in the fall of 2008,” according to my “Official Government Edition” of The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

Trillion of dollars in risky mortgages were rampant in the financial system, thanks to mortgage-related securities being repackaged and sold to investors all over the world, the report says.

The federal Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, signed by President Barack Obama in May 2009, established the FCIC, and it’s report, at 633 pages, is a whopper.

The report — in part or whole — might become required reading for students who enroll in the new master of science in real estate program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

UNCC’s program was announced this month, while the housing market and the overall economy are still crippled. We are by no means out of the woods.

Currently, the real estate industry has an image problem. Like print journalism, some see real estate as the last profession to go into right now, thanks to a slump in construction and home sales. Indeed, working at Starbucks seems like a more secure gig. And although you’re not going to get rich by being a barista, at least they get a free pound of coffee a week.

Some people also might also see real estate professionals — particularly mortgage brokers, and especially those who were in the subprime biz — as shady and blame them for the economic collapse.

So, how to restore faith in the real estate industry?

For starters, make sure the next generation of industry leaders is well-trained, trustworthy and able to make sound decisions, because, if we learned nothing else from the ongoing financial crisis, we learned that real estate plays a big role in our economy.

That’s why you might say UNCC’s new master’s degree program couldn’t have come at a better time for the industry. Those interested in commercial real estate — the program does not have a residential focus at this time — will take classes on, among other things, site feasibility analysis and financial analysis of development. There are 11 courses in the program, but the two I just mentioned sound like the kind that would ensure we don’t have a lot of bad developments being plunked down.

Good, too, is that the program is in Charlotte, so locals can take advantage of it. (As long as they can pass the GMAT, of course.)

But the program is not in response to the real estate downturn, says UNCC professor Dustin Read, director of the university’s Center for Real Estate and the guy managing the faculty for the program.

Actually, plans for the program were being formed before the crisis, he said. Thanks to market conditions, though, the program wasn’t rolled out until now. The first class starts in the fall of next year.

Although other colleges and universities across the country offer concentrated master’s degrees in real estate — Read says about 20 schools feature such programs — UNCC’s is the only one in North Carolina.

Clemson University, in Clemson, S.C., is the closest school to UNCC offering a similar master’s degree, Read said.

The UNCC program, he said, was shaped using the input of the business community; the university has an advisory board composed of representatives from nearly 30 commercial and real estate development firms in the area. Read said those businesspeople saw a need for high-level real estate training for industry officials who are already in Charlotte. They also saw it as a way to lure employees to Charlotte.

A full-time student from North Carolina will pay about $15,000 to get the degree. If you’re from out of state, you’ll pay closer to $25,000.

I wonder how much demand there will be for the program, at least at this point in time. It’s too early to say, as recruiting has just begun, although Read says there’s been a lot of interest.

It’s worth noting that, of the 11 courses in the UNCC program, none seem to deal with ethics.

That’s not criticism, just an observation.

Roberts can be reached at deon.roberts@mecktimes.com.

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