Colleges are starting to get into the real estate game now more than ever. Like private investors, they are taking advantage of low, sometimes fire-sale prices to gobble up real estate surrounding their existing campuses. It’s a way for the schools to plan for their long-term futures, and take advantage of some great deals. Even if the real estate is not used immediately, it’s either being incorporated into long-term planning or being leased to outside businesses as an extra source of revenue. It’s happening all over the country, in big cities like New York (Columbia University amassed 17 acres of Manhattan’s Upper West Side from 2002-2009) and small towns like Dayton, OH (snapping up the former MCR world headquarters for $18 million). The schools are counting on future growth to make sure their purchases are good investments. In many cases, taking over existing, empty real estate and commercial space is cheaper than building from scratch.