As real estate markets endure a prolonged slump nationally, UNC Charlotte has announced plans to expand its real estate curriculum with a master's degree program.
The university hopes to recruit 12 to 15 students to the Belk College of Business in August for a program UNCC believes will be unique in the state.
Officials say the program could grow by as many as 20 students a year, perhaps a sign that the industry still shows promise, even if at lower levels than a decade ago.
"In good times and bad, the commercial real estate industry is one of the key drivers of the economy," said Steven Ott, Belk College dean and founding director of university's Center for Real Estate.
Only a handful of master's-level real estate programs are offered in the Southeast, university officials said.
Those include programs at Auburn University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University.
Despite a fierce recession triggered by problems in subprime lending and real estate securities markets, students still line up for places in the top programs.
The most sought-after degrees are offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California-Berkeley, among others.
Real estate investment trusts and real estate securities are pushing demand for a higher level of expertise, especially in areas such as in real estate finance and development.
UNCC launched the Center for Real Estate to meet demands of the real estate and financial service industries in the Charlotte region. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for positions related to appraisal, brokerage, lending, consulting, market research, development, financial analysis and capital markets.
Students in the new master's degree program will take classes in commercial real estate, including law and land-use policy, finance and investment, construction management and financial management.
"We're optimistic about launching the program and the opportunities it will present, both for the students and the industry," Ott said.