Schererville Sylvan Learning Center sees biggest jump in revenue nationally

The Sylvan Learning Center in Schererville in 2012. It saw the biggest jump in revenue out of all the Sylvan Learning Centers last year, after it was acquired by new ownership.

Sylvan Learning franchisee Kent Kolbow bought out Northwest Indiana's three educational centers last year, doubled the staff at each of them and watched the investment pay off.

The Sylvan Learning Center in Schererville saw a 60 percent jump in revenue, and won a national company-wide award for most improved in revenue between 2015 and 2016 out of the Baltimore-based chain's nearly 700 locations across the country. Manager Jackie Galambos also won a director of the year award from Sylvan for helping struggling students.

Kolbow owns the Schererville, Merrillville and Valparaiso for-profit tutoring centers that give K-12 students individualized attention so they can improve their grades. It helps struggling students who have fallen behind in class, as well as advanced students looking to ace difficult subjects like calculus or prepare for the SAT. 

Kolbow, a teacher who still spends about 15 hours a week instructing students, now owns 11 Sylvan Learning Centers across the entire state. He immediately doubled the staff to about a dozen instructors at each of the three Northwest Indiana locations after buying them out last year.

"It's mostly because of staffing," he said. "Our philosophy is we staff to grow the business. While we're here to make money, we also strive to have success with every student who walks through the door. That results in good word-of-mouth. They'll tell their friends and they'll tell their friends."

Local Sylvan Learning Center staff also went out to sell the program at local libraries and schools.

"We're not competing with the schools. We're a resource for and partner of the schools," he said. "When students are struggling, we can work on their individualized skill gaps to move them up to grade level. We work with advanced students who want a 98, not a 92, in advanced chemistry class. We're looking to increase STEM programs, with robotic science and math courses."

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.