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New College Program Hopes to Help Minority Talent Break Into Real Estate Industry

commercial real estateIn order to help minority students break into the commercial real estate industry, Texas Southern University has started offering a new concentration in commercial real estate as part of its bachelor of business administration degree program.

“There’s really a gap in this market,” said Ronald Johnson, dean of Texas Southern’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business. “We want to increase minority participation in that space.”

Johnson explained that the program’s goal is to create a pipeline of minority students into the real estate community, which, as recent statistics indicate, is booming. According to data from analytics firm CoStar Group, the commercial real estate industry is worth over a jaw-dropping $12 trillion. Its ancillary sectors are doing quite well, too — the U.S. home improvement industry, for example, is worth an estimated $57.2 billion dollars.

However, minorities are under-represented among both the nation’s and Houston’s mainstream developer and broker communities. The latest available statistics revealed that in 2013, African Americans made up only 4.2% of all real estate brokers and agents in the United States. In fact, real estate is one of the least diverse industries — of the 340 categories being tracked bythe Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 32 job categories had lower percentage of black workers employed.

In order to close the gap locally, Texas Southern worked with Houston’s developers, banks, and industry leaders to create the new concentration for its students, the majority of whom are African-American.

The first course in the new concentration, commercial real estate finance, began on January 20, with 10 undergraduate students enrolled, and is being taught by Houston multifamily developer David Mincberg. Students will focus on two key aspects of real estate development: project management and financing. They will also have the opportunity throughout the course of the class to go on field trips to both construction sites and financial institutions, to fully immerse themselves in the industry, and to learn what’s required to develop a retail center, office building, or apartment tower in Texas. To complete the course, students will pair off with an industry professional to design a capstone project.

“There’s a lot of wisdom that’s not in a business textbook,” explained Johnson. “We want our students to have personal contact with real professionals and see how they do their deals. That’s important.”

Johnson plans to expand the small program over the next several years so that it will cover more aspects of the real estate industry, such as property insurance, in the hopes that it will create a more diverse real estate development community with more minority representation.

“Houston is a growing, dynamic and diverse city,” said Johnson. “For our city to remain successful, we need to develop the people who are here or else we’ll find ourselves in a spot where it will cost us a lot of money to import the best talent.”