The demand for rental housing is on the rise, but because of a lack of university-level programs, there aren’t many people prepared to manage properties.
To help remedy that problem, the University of Alaska Anchorage is putting the final touches on the new undergraduate Weidner Program for Property Management and Real Estate.
As the size of rental properties grow, so does the demand for a pool of college graduates who have the necessary education and experience to manage them.
Unfortunately, according to Dean Weidner, the head of Weidner Apartment Homes – which manages a number of properties in Alaska and around the U.S., there aren’t many people who fit that description, so his company, and others like it, have had to make due.
“What we wound up with was maybe taking a restaurant waitress or somebody freshly out of school who we thought might be doing a good job at leasing and sort of throw it on the wall and hoped that it worked out for both parties,” Weidner said.
But, he says the rate of failure was high.
“As we grew, particularly, and we started having properties 100, 200 and 300 units, the business changes from about a $200,000 business a year to a many millions per year,” Weidner said. “So, all of a sudden you’ve got a large, sophisticated business that requires some sophisticated thinking, and analysis and action – and that’s where the college graduate really comes in.”
So, 10 years ago Weidner donated $1 million to UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy to begin developing a real estate and property management program.
Then in 2009, Weidner made an additional contribution of $3 million to really get the ball rolling.
Much of that money went toward the endowment of the Weidner Chair, which, according to the Dean of the College of Business and Public Policy Rashmi Prasad, will play a crucial role in the development of the program and its students.
“The Weidner Chair’s role really is to help, almost to be an architect for the program; to make sure it’s connected to industry very well; to make sure that students are inspired and appreciate the opportunities in this field to counteract any preconceptions they may have or misconceptions they may have,” Prasad said.
At a recent event in UAA’s Rasmusen Hall – where the Business college is housed – Prasad announced lifelong Alaskan Andrew Romerdahl as the first-ever Weidner Chair.
Part of Romerdahl’s duties will be to attract new students and keep them there. He says the job placement statistics for recent graduates of similar programs around the U.S. are impressive, and should make the program an easy sell to prospective students.
“You’re talking 95, 97, 98 percent; almost every student that is passing through there is landing a job directly out of the program,” Romerdahl said. “So, that’s the part that’s really exciting for me.”
This new program may look similar to a previous program that was housed within the College of Business and Public Policy’s finance department, but according to Professor Terry Fields, there are a number of differences.
“You’re gonna see a brand new curriculum and it’s been switched under a management degree, which was felt to be a more appropriate degree to house it under,” Fields said. “The largest thing you’re gonna see is the designation attainment now and the new curriculum that’s developed under that program.”
The department hopes to graduate between 25 and 30 students per year; and the first ones could receive their degrees as soon as 2015.