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TAMPA, FL—Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services recently announced that Dorothy Jackman, vice president, investments, and Travis Prince, a senior associate in the local office, were selected by the Growth Group, a consulting organization for higher education institutions, to participate in The Higher Education Monetization Consortium (HEMC).

The consortium consists of education leaders and finance experts to assist universities with real estate monetization strategies. It formed last year, Jackman tells GlobeSt.com for obvious reasons. “Universities have suffered just as any business in the recession. Enrollments are down, endowments are down. Increasingly, they are considering turning to real estate to fill gaps in the budget.” Unlike other industries, though, higher education does not have that much experience in monetization its real estate.

GlobeSt.com: First, let’s define what we mean by monetization.

Jackman: Bringing value and capital to the university for a piece of real estate. How that transaction looks, though, will be different from case to case. It could be sale leaseback, or bond financing, or a decision to dispose of a building or student dorm and turn it over to a buyer or management company.

GlobeSt.com: Why haven’t colleges and universities explored this before? There is a history of third parties owning student housing.

Jackman: It just hasn’t been a part of their culture for the most part. In fact, only now is it even being raised as an option. Some universities have made moves in this area, but they are few. Right now they are mostly asking questions, quietly.

GlobeSt.com: They don’t want to discuss these options publicly.

Jackman: No, not really.

GlobeSt.com: What questions do they ask?

Jackman: From what my sources are telling me, presidents are starting with the fundamental question of should a university even be in the housing business, or should it get out completely, subcontract the business out and use its funds for its core business, which is education. It is hard to give them standard answers because in truth the situation is different for each school. Some are publicly owned, some are private, some are religious institutions. Being able to transfer ownership of property varies significantly from case to case.

GlobeSt.com: Let’s assume transactions start to happen. How accepting or interested would the capital markets be with such deals, especially a relatively new asset class.

Jackman: I think that will be the least of the issues. All types of equity would be interested because the risks are so minimized. Universities will always have students.

GlobeSt.com: Do you think a revitalization of student housing CMBS is in the cards? Especially if new transactions start to fill the pipeline as it sounds like it may?

Jackman: It is a possibility but as you know there are issues with CMBS outside from the student housing question. In terms of the category, student housing loan defaults were relatively rare.

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