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U3 Advisors works with Lafayette College and the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to organize its first real estate case competition

U3 Advisors worked with long-standing client Lafayette College and the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to organize its first real estate case competition focused on student housing development. The goal of the competition was to teach students how to evaluate investment opportunities, assess risk, and make a pitch to executive leadership. At the end of the competition, participants walked away with practical knowledge and skills that can be applied to a variety of professions.

Todd Stern and Danielle Robins wrote the case study and organized a “bootcamp” to educate participants about real estate. The case study focused on a new freshmen residence hall to be built on Lafayette’s campus and whether the College should self-fund the project using debt or engage a developer in a public-private partnership or P3. Todd and Danielle also facilitated a day-long bootcamp to teach students about student housing development in particular. College leadership, including a Board of Trustees member, the Vice President for Finance and Administration, and the Vice President for Campus Life, as well as real estate and design professionals from Radnor Property Group, Evercore ISI, and Atkins Olshin Schade Architects participated in the bootcamp. During the event, students learned how to evaluate development opportunities, how institutions decide whether to build new housing in partnership with the private sector, and what the trade-offs are.

Following the bootcamp, students received the case study and began their analysis of the transaction structures under consideration for the new project. Students were asked to prepare a project budget and pro forma identifying cash flows to the College and developer and the overall return on the investment. As part of their analysis, students were asked to consider several items, including minimizing risk to the College, the amount of institutional control over housing operations and management, the impact on the College’s balance sheet and credit rating, and any potential effects on the student experience  — items that U3A commonly evaluates for its own institutional clients considering P3 development. Eleven teams submitted their analysis and three advanced to the final round. The competition was held on November 9, 2018 and the finalists presented their analysis and recommendations to a panel of three alumni judges active in the real estate industry.

U3A saw the competition as a unique opportunity to educate the next generation of real estate professionals and impart lessons learned from its own experience over the last 20+ years working with colleges and non-profits on complex real estate projects. The competition exposed students to the wide variety of roles within real estate, including advisory, development, debt/equity, architecture, and legal, among others, demonstrating the collective effort it takes to implement a project.