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graduate_capNAR’s Annual Conference—with its accompanying Governance Meetings—always concludes with some great, new ideas. This past November’s meeting in New Orleans was no exception. Among the many interesting developments this year was the announcement of some major changes to the Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation.

Launched nationally in 1966, GRI was designed as a 90-hour program to get new sales associates up and running in the business, covering topics from general market knowledge to business skills, systems and tools, as well as liability issues. As much of the coursework is state-specific, it’s one of the few national programs directly managed at the state level.

The GRI was and is one of NAR’s most successful designations, with over 90,000 designees. However, times change and so too must every program. These days, other training opportunities and certifications compete for the attention of new agents. While several state programs remained vital, on the whole, members wanted to see a change so that the designation remained in step with today’s quickening business pace. NAR’s membership, and specifically the professional development committee, addressed the need to modernize the GRI designation.

Starting last summer, an NAR workgroup looked at the state of the program and made recommendations to the Board of Directors, changes which were approved in November in New Orleans. In cooperation with the State Education Directors, the designation was tightened in several ways. “We rewrote the learning objectives and core competencies of the course to reflect up-to-date content that today’s real estate professional needs to begin their career,” says Amy Chorew, workgroup leader and incoming chair of the Professional Development Committee. “We do know that there is still a great need for education and training for the newer sales associate entering the business.”

Some other changes announced include:

  • Shortening the timeline for completion to “no more than five years” to make sure the coursework remains relevant to technology and trends.
  • Giving states the option to adopt the set of required curriculum topics developed in consultation with state education directors or, if they choose, to develop a customized program that meets the needs of their particular market.
  • Permitting the coursework and products of existing designation and certification programs to count toward earning the GRI designation, subject to the discretion of each state association.
  • Granting course credit through examination or real-world experience, as long as it makes up no more than half of the state’s requirements.
  • Mandating that each state’s accreditation cycle change from five years to three years to keep up with today’s rapidly changing real estate landscape.
  • Allowing local associations to take over the GRI program only if the state association agrees in writing to abdicate all GRI responsibilities. States that do not have a GRI program must provide options for members to take courses in neighboring states or through co-sponsoring with another state or local association.

These and many more suggestions aim at making GRI programs timely, valuable and relevant to today’s REALTORS®. More work is planned, including examining trends in education delivery methods as well as how to reach today’s diverse REALTOR® populations. As each state’s GRI program is accredited by the National Association of REALTORS® and must align with the new curriculum standards, look for some significant changes by the end of 2016.

Marc Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for the National Association of REALTORS® and executive director of REBAC. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

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