Bellevue College (formerly Bellevue Community College) use to be the go-to place for real estate courses that also counted towards college credit. I must have referred hundreds of people to BCC during the last decade. The slowdown in the real estate industry has hit this program hard. But it’s not because real estate agent students aren’t taking classes. Instead, the majority of students I met during the classes I taught during the bubble run up were students who had entered the state workforce retraining program. These folks were laid-off workers from Boeing or technology who were training for a career in a growing industry which at that time was real estate and mortgage lending. The students I met had plans to become loan processors, loan originators, escrow closers, or appraisers. “Real estate sales? Yikes! That’s 100% commission,” they said. Instead most were looking for stable monthly income with a regular paycheck. All were extremely excited to be learning about the real estate and mortgage industries. The classes were also sprinkled with people who were already in one side of the industry but were wanting to learn more. For example, a title insurance employee who wanted to move into her company’s escrow department or a loan processor who wanted to become a loan originator.
Teaching community college students is radically different than teaching Realtors and loan originators in other venues. First of all, community college students actually WANT to be there. They are generally very motivated to learn and they are also very tired having just worked a full day before the evening class. In order to make evening classes work, you need keep the students energized and interested, which makes for a totally fun, adrenaline filled classroom once the pace is set.
I’ll be teaching the last four real estate courses for Bellevue College this summer that are offered as “college credit” classes: Land Titles, Beginning Escrow, Advanced Escrow, and Real Estate Investments. Note that Bellevue College will still offer continuing ed real estate classes. After the college credit program winds down, I hope that Kristen and Margaret save all the syllabuses and learning objectives from all the other classes (because for the next instructor coming in, this is really helpful.) It’s only a matter of time before the program starts up again. Our industry is and always will be cyclical. There will eventually be another big demand for real estate and mortgage related education at the college level. The curriculum might not look the same as it did in the past, but the demand will come. Maybe we will see the program shift into their continuing education division. Then the big question will be how to market to existing real estate licensees. Most of the Realtors I know don’t immediately think of Bellevue College when thinking of options for their clock hour classes. It’s typically a last minute decision. Maybe we’ll see some interest from real estate agents who need to take evening continuing ed classes due to another full time job. But the question is, how will BCC reach these potential students?
I remember a job I held back in the mid 1990s with Pacific NW Title up in Everett. Our County Manager Chris Schulz had a requirement that every single new hire take the beginning Land Title Institute course before our first performance review. We were not able to receive a raise unless we finished the course. I can remember reading and doing the take-home quizzes on an airplane, and on the weekends, but I finished in time. Even though I complained about having to spend the time doing the work, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about land titles.
I taught a class onboard the Point Ruston floating sales office last Wednesday and we talked about real estate being one of the least trusted professions. I had the group brainstorm about why they thought this was true. Most every group had one answer in common: Too low of a barrier to entry. I wonder if the upcoming changes in the real estate licensing laws are enough.
In the future, I’d love to see more Washington State institutions of higher learning offer four year undergraduate degrees in real estate and mortgage lending finance. The UW and WSU both offer undergrad degrees in finance. I wonder how those programs are doing. Perhaps a demand for real estate and lending education at the higher ed level would only come if it were required. I’d like to think that it will be someday.