MBA, Lennar Mortgage open first mortgage banking program at Barry University
Barry University Mortgage Banking Bound class.
Mortgage originators in Florida won’t have far to travel if they want to move up and become a mortgage banker.
Florida is now home to a first-in-the-nation formal education program focused on developing a group of mortgage bankers.
Miami’s diversity makes it a natural launching pad for the Mortgage Banker Association’s first mortgage banking certificate program in the nation, called Mortgage Banking Bound.
A strong connection between Miami-based Lennar Mortgage and the president of a university in Miami Shores lead to the new program.
David Upbin, vice president of education for the MBA, said the Mortgage Banking Bound program had a few false starts before Lennar Mortgage President Laura Escobar brought a proposal to the MBA’s 2022 Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference, held in Nashville, Tenn.
“When we saw it on paper, it was kind of a quick ‘aha’ moment,” Upbin said. “The proposal aligned with the content that we already had on our shelves, … it was almost a 90% match. Knowing that authoring and building the content is one of the hardest elements of the program, we volunteered to tap into our existing course material.”
According to Tiffani Malvin, director of continuing education and portfolio programs at Barry University, Mortgage Banking Bound was introduced for the first time at the start of the spring semester in January and has 11 students. The program, which costs students $3,000, is 100 hours over 15 weeks, she said, and meets two nights weekly.
The course teaches students about the various aspects of mortgage banking, including loan products, underwriting, loan servicing, regulatory compliance, and marketing, among other topics.
“This is an opportunity to open this up to create a … diverse pipeline to enter the industry,” Malvin said. “There’s a range of careers in the industry, and this program really prepares them for that. It touches on four major elements: loan origination, closing, underwriting, and processing, and each of those areas has a myriad of jobs related: loan originator, loan associate, customer service, and then builds from there into management.”
MBA’s Upbin added that the program is “showing students through this class that no matter what your interests are, no matter what your strengths are — introvert, extrovert, sales ops, technology — that there’s a place for you in this industry.”
In addition to faculty members, Malvin noted that each class is taught by “professionals and experts in the field” — volunteers from southern Florida who are provided by the MBA and Lennar Mortgage who are not paid.
Students also get outside the classroom, Malvin added, including opportunities for internships with lenders that include not just Lennar Mortgage but also Fannie Mae, Marion Bank & Trust, Novus Home Mortgage, and TD Bank.
“We also have an end-of-program networking event and a career fair,” she said, “where students will have an opportunity to talk to organizations that are hiring … so they have a career pathway and opportunities to get a job at the completion of the program.”
‘We Jumped On It’
Located on 124 acres in Miami Shores, Barry University was founded in 1940 by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a Catholic religious institute based in Adrian, Mich. In addition to Barry University, the sisters also sponsor a high school in Illinois, the Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Siena Heights University in Michigan.
"No matter what your interests are, no matter what your strengths are — introvert, extrovert, sales ops, technology — there’s a place for you in this industry.”
David Upbin, vice president of education, Mortgage Bankers Association
Escobar suggested using an existing relationship Lennar Mortgage had with Mike Allen, Ph.D., president of Barry University, a private liberal arts school with about 6,000 students located just north of Miami in Miami Shores.
“It became a perfect match,” Upbin said of Barry U. “They’ve got a robust executive certificate program and they cater to the types of students that we’re trying to bring into our industry, students that reflect the diverse nature of southern Florida, of this country, and the future homebuyer.”
Danielle Tocco, Lennar Mortgage’s vice president of communications, said the company had been working on the concept of a mortgage banker training program for a couple of years, and decided to enlist the MBA’s help for its educational knowledge and some financial support. She credited the Lennar Foundation, the company’s charitable arm, as a key to making the program a reality.
“Being able to serve other people is one of the main centerpieces of the course. It’s something worth exploring.”
Chris Sanon, real estate agent and mortgage banker, Exit Realty Mizner
“The mortgage industry faces an ongoing challenge of finding and retaining top talent,” Tocco said. “As we stopped to think about it, when a young adult graduates from high school and wants to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant — there is a clear education path forward. If someone wants to get into the mortgage industry, where do they start? Are students and young adults aware that there are robust career opportunities in mortgage? That is where the idea for Mortgage Banking Bound came about.”
According to David Kopp, Ph.D., vice provost of continuing education and graduate studies at Barry, said the school has 100 degree programs, ranging from bachelor to doctorate, and “a full panoply of subjects from business to education, to a school of podiatry, to social work, as well as law.”
The university, he said, is “always seeking out continuing education opportunities for our constituents, realizing that many folks are searching not necessarily for a college degree, but for things like credentials and certificates.”
Kopp said that, when the school was presented the opportunity to add the mortgage banking program, “we jumped on it,” believing there was a need for a certificate that would open “a career path that many may not have access to, the mortgage industry.’
Land Of Opportunity
Chris Sanon is a native of Haiti. He arrived in Orlando, as a young adult in 2010 following the devastating earthquake that struck the small Caribbean nation in January of that year.
Over the succeeding 13 years, he has earned an associate degree in biology from Palm Beach State College; transferred to Florida Atlantic University to work towards a bachelor’s degree but had to leave 13 credits shy due to his financial situation; then worked various jobs and started a nonprofit organization to help children back in in his native land.
He also earned a real estate license, working for Exit Realty Mizner in Boca Raton.
Despite how busy he is, he enrolled in the Mortgage Banker Bound program with the goal of adding mortgage banking skills to his real estate work.
“As a [real estate agent], it helps me understand the market enough to explain it better to my clients,” Sanon said. “Just because of that course alone, I was able to get a new client. I sat down and explained how the whole entire process works.”
He had never heard of the MBA before enrolling in the program, which has allowed him to discover “a whole new world that I didn’t even think about. There are so many entry points. It’s way bigger than I expected.”
His goal now, he said, is to add work as both a real estate agent and a mortgage banker. “I can perform both at the same time,” he said. “Being able to serve other people is one of the main centerpieces of the course. It’s something worth exploring.”
Exploring new options is also what attracted Ekaterina Elagina to the program.
A native of Russia, Elagina arrived in the U.S. six years ago with a master’s degree in art criticism and the ability to speak English and Spanish as well as Russian. She has since added a master’s in human resource development from Barry University, and is working towards another in mental health counseling.
She also does charitable work, founding a program to help refugee Ukrainian children settle in South Florida.
With all of that on her plate, she still found herself drawn to the Mortgage Banking Bound program.
“I was really fascinated about this program,” Elagina said. “I really don’t believe that we should limit ourselves and our abilities to help communities and people and families by just sticking to what we were taught in any program.”
Using Existing Skills
She believes, in fact, that her other training will help her in the mortgage banking industry.
“I would like to work in this industry,” she said. “What makes me really enthusiastic about joining the industry is just having some background and knowledge in multicultural sensitivity and how we can approach different communities, people with different values, people with different incomes, and make it really diverse and inclusive.”
That, ultimately, is the goal for the Mortgage Banking Bound program. Upbin, vice president of education for the MBA, says the success of the program will be judged in a variety of ways.
“Number one, we want to graduate students that are excited for the industry and get them placed with jobs or internships,” he said. “If we can get 50%, 75% of the students placed, or at least interviewing with our member companies, then we believe that is a success.”
The MBA and Lennar Mortgage have committed to offering the program for the fall semester, and hope to see enrollment grow. The plan is also to expand by utilizing some virtual instruction, which would allow for instructors nationwide to participate.
“What makes me really enthusiastic about joining the industry is just having some background and knowledge in multicultural sensitivity.”
“If we can see [the number of students] grow into the low 20s, high 20s, we would be absolutely thrilled,” Upbin said. “And to keep seeing diverse job seekers — whether it’s diversity of gender, color, economic backgrounds — if we see diversity of students who are coming into this classroom really committing themselves to learning about the industry and pursuing a career, that is a success for us.”
The MBA also hopes to expand the program in 2024 outside of Florida to other colleges and universities, but will do so in a methodical way, Upbin said.
“We want to make sure we’re not overcommitting and under delivering,” he said, adding the MBA will seek schools that have “robust certificate programs” and professors with a background in real estate finance.
But he said the MBA also wants to locate the programs “in an area where we know the industry can support hiring. So think of high production, high volume areas, whether that’s Nashville, or Southern California, or Dallas, or Denver. Those are the kind of matches we’re looking for.”
For the pilot of the Mortgage Banking Bound program, though, Miami seems to have been a perfect match.
This article was originally published in the Florida Originator August 2023 issue.