MASTER DEVELOPERS The newest diploma at MIT is a master's degree in real estate development.
By - Brian Dumaine

(FORTUNE Magazine) – QUESTION: What is the hardest program to get into at Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Answer: The new one that turns out masters of science in real estate development (MSREDs). The 35 students admitted last fall were picked from 225 applicants. While other U.S. universities offer degrees in specific areas of real estate, MIT is the first to offer a graduate degree covering all aspects of property development--from finance to market analysis, design, and even community politics. Tuition for the 12-month program, which will graduate its first class next fall, is $14,000. The new degree is the brainchild of Charles Spaulding, 57, retired president of Spaulding & Slye, a Burlington, Massachusetts, development firm, which built one of the largest office parks in the Northeast in its home town. Spaulding watched the real estate game evolve from one in which a builder with a bank loan and a bulldozer could do his thing to one dominated by politics, environmental red tape, and Rube Goldberg financing. ''It would take,'' he says, ''three times as long to build the Empire State Building today as it did in 1930.'' Spaulding concluded that aspiring developers needed a professional school to help them cope, and in 1982 approached MIT, his alma mater, with the idea. Law professor Lawrence Bacow, 32, now associate director of the new program, carried the ball from there.

The first crop of students, whose average age is 30, are already seasoned in the real estate business. All have three to five years' experience either working in big firms or running their own operations. Says one student, ''I was skeptical, having been out in the field, about how much I'd benefit. But I've learned a lot about construction here, even though I was already a licensed contractor.'' The teachers, drawn from the MIT faculty, get occasional help from such real estate heavies as Gerald Hines of Houston and James Rouse of Columbia, Maryland. In turn these real estate tycoons get a chance to scout the classes for talented young people. About 65 developers and corporations, including IBM and Citicorp Real Estate Inc., kick in $5,000 to $10,000 a year to support MIT's new Center for Real Estate Development. The center administers the program and provides members with research and reports. Like that august business school across the Charles River, MIT uses the case method and gets the students fired up about what computers can do. MIT professor William Wheaton, who teaches real estate market analysis, says, ''The industry is two decades behind other American businesses in the use of computers.'' Among other things, Wheaton teaches how to use computers to analyze the office market. The idea, he says, ''is to avoid a Houston-style glut and find places that are really hot.'' Spaulding thinks the school will succeed in teaching students how to be ''quarterbacks of major real estate corporations, overseeing finance, construction, and community politics.'' But can the course produce tomorrow's Gerald Hines and James Rouse? Even Spaulding concedes, ''You can't teach a person to be an entrepreneur. You either have it or you don't.''