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RISMEDIA, Sept. 27, 2007-While conventional wisdom might question the job prospects for graduate students entering the real estate field next spring, opportunities abound for those with the creative thinking and skillful analysis needed to make a deal work in a challenging market, according to Stan Ross, chairman of the board of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Lecturing to students in the Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program at USC, Ross advised them to seek out companies that need help adjusting their business plans, modifying their debt strategies, enhancing cash flows and reducing loan portfolios laden with, or impacted by, subprime debt.

“Companies will do more downside analysis and the whole due diligence area expands tremendously during a down cycle with more demand for marketing, leasing, finance and accounting skills,” he explained, adding that he has seen 10 real estate cycles in the past 40 years. “Many of the big real estate firms were formed during down cycles including Colony Capital, Carlyle, Whitehall and JR Roberts- they were not afraid to seize an opportunity.”

The current real estate market is a great learning experience, added Raphael Bostic, Ph.D., director of the MRED program in the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.

“Whatever is happening in the market informs our curriculum so we’re focusing now on the fundamentals of real estate finance,” he explained. “Students favoring careers in real estate development are naturally optimistic, but we emphasize the need to be flexible and master all the market segments – retail, office, industrial and residential.”

The associate director for the MRED program, Sonia Savoulian, anticipates an uptick in the number of graduate student applications next year.

“Industry layoffs often prompt executives to get advanced degrees. They want to move up in their careers and be better prepared in a competitive job market.” She added that employers want executives that can reevaluate business plans, create new strategies for acquiring land and manage diverse teams that may be located in offices spread across the globe.

“Our students want to get into the market now so they can ride it back up.”