Posted by George Walden

We spoke with Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College, about the secondary education business.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.


Jay Curry: Welcome back. Hello Texas. Welcome to Texas Business Radio. Now we’re down in Irving at the 2017 Dallas Vistage Executive Summit. It’s exciting. We’ve got 500 to 800 people. CEOs make the 500 and then we have about 300 people that are coaches and service providers. It’s exciting time. We’re in the Irving Convention Center and this is fun. So, Matt Registers stepped out for this one. We’ve got our old faithful, George Walden. We’re delighted to have on with us. George what do you think about this?

George Walden: Well, this topic, you know, business owners today have a real problem finding talent in the marketplace, is difficult to do. Here’s a person who’s going to present to us a solution for getting that talent into the business, into the market.

Jim Tolbert: Yeah. Good afternoon.

Jay Curry: It’s very exciting. So, before we get started, let me remind you that you can go to Texasbusinessradio.com and everything we do is there on high definition video. From our special guest to our sponsors. Everything is there, so just put pencils down, relax. We’re going to have about a 10 minute fun time here and then you can always go see it and look up what you want. You can call us anytime, 24 hours a day at 844-814-8144. And of course, we monitor #TBR on Twitter. So you got lots of ways to get to us. Let’s get to our guest. We’re going to be talking to Jim Tolbert. Jim is the CEO.

Jim Tolbert: Correct.

Jay Curry: Right. Of Vista College, Vista College. Jim, what’s that all about?

Jim Tolbert: Vista college is a entry level career education post-secondary institution. We are based here, our corporate offices here in the DFW area, as is our online division. But 90 percent of our students attend one of our 10 campuses, eight of which are in Texas. One is in New Mexico and one is in Arkansas. We provide entry level career education. Our single largest program of study is in allied health and specifically in medical assisting. We also train in dental assisting, medical billing and coding. And outside of the allied health area, we also provide training in the trades such as HVAC, an electrical, business and IT.

Jay Curry: This is exciting stuff, isn’t George?

George Walden: Well for those listeners out there who are wondering about what makes a business owner successful, I will tell you. I represent businesses every day in the marketplace and you’d be shocked how many business owners started out as a tradesmen. They didn’t have a college education. They got into a trade and became very successful in the marketplace. So, I’m a huge proponent for trade education. I think this country has gotten away from that and needs to get back on track with the trades.

Jay Curry: We’ve also gotten to a situation where college isn’t the answer for everybody. I mean we went through a period where you had to go to college but you know what college is very expensive, takes a lot of time, there’s only limited amount. And trade is a beautiful alternative to have a great, swell life.

Jim Tolbert: Well, one of the things that I think is a very strong value proposition for our students who come to Vista College is they’re looking for a career and they need to get into the job market as quickly as they can. And our single largest length of program is nine months. It’s a diploma program in the various fields that I shared with you. We also do a year and a half associate degree but the majority of our students are doing the nine month diploma program. Until…

Jay Curry: Then their getting a job, Right?

Jim Tolbert: And their getting a job when they graduate. They are coming in and studying very focused curriculum to help them get employment upon graduation.

George Walden: Now, do you help them with the employment process?

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely.

George Walden: Reaching out to the owners and saying “Hey, we’re going to bring you qualified people”.

Jim Tolbert: In fact we have a very robust, what we call our career services department. They work with the students literally from the day they started Vista College and preparing them to enter the job market. They work with them on their interviewing skills, their resume skills. They help identify employers that are looking for graduates of our school and we work very closely with them to help them as best as we can get employment upon graduation.

George Walden: Outstanding.

Jay Curry: So, our listeners are generally business owners. The message for them is, here’s, here’s a vehicle to get some real quality, trained well people.

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely. And the other part of our business strategy is there’s a lot of very good schools like ours in Dallas and Houston and even in Austin and San Antonio. We are in El Paso, Amarillo, Lubbock, Beaumont, Killeen, College Station. We’re in smaller communities and typically when, where we have a campus, there are no alternatives to schools like ours. And so what we really have done a wonderful job of is marring individuals who are looking for job preparation skills and employers that are looking for qualified employees. And so we have grown significantly over the last 10 years. And I think it’s served both of those markets, that has led to our success.

Jay Curry: So, given some of those numbers, they’re very impressive.

George Walden: Yeah.

Jim Tolbert: Well, we started, our first school was in El Paso, Texas. We had about 300 students and about 40 employees. And today we’re about 4000 students and close to 900 employees.

Jay Curry: Wow. Impressive growth. Shows you the need that we have here.

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely.

Jay Curry: Folks, we’re talking to Jim Tolbert, who’s a CEO of Vista College and they’re in eight locations. It’s a wonderful program. What about financing? I mean do you help in that area?

Jim Tolbert: Yeah. Absolutely. And pretty much almost all of our students avail themselves of the federal financial aid program. And because we are license, because we are accredited, we are eligible to participate in the federal financial aid program. Which includes both pell grants, as well as loan programs. Now in addition to that, a significant number of our students also are either former military or in the military or dependent to the military and the military really provides some very generous education benefits to those individuals. We help our students work with their V.A. benefits in order to attend school. And then another in the third largest area of financing that helps our students is through Department of Labor Workforce and Best Board Retraining Funds. So, there’s a variety of ways that our students do, are able to pay for school.

Jay Curry: So, there, there, there’s a wealth of opportunity for getting your funding. You now have an opportunity to get some great training. Okay.

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely.

Jay Curry: Man, it’s a big deal. And I love the idea that you’re in the smaller outlying areas, where there’s no big college, usually.

Jim Tolbert: Exactly.

Jay Curry: Okay.

Jim Tolbert: Exactly.

Jay Curry: It’s just a wonderful, wonderful program. So, If somebody has an interest, first of all it would be one of two things. It would either be a company that looking for quality people, someplace they can come and get quality people and it might be a student that’s out there hearing the program. How do I get to you? How do I learn more?

Jim Tolbert: Well, like most businesses today, we have, we think a very user friendly Web site. It’s wwwVistacollege.edu. And when you go on our web site, you can see the various programs we offer. You can see the various locations. We have campuses, including our online division and it gives contact information at each of those locations. So and to your point, whether you’re an employer looking for a much needed employee, whether you’re someone who’s looking for further job training, come to our web site and we’ll be happy to help you.

Jay Curry: So, the web site sounds like it’s really the key. If I’m, if I’m a potential student and I’m interested. I can find out the areas that your in and stuff.

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely.

Jay Curry: Let’s take just a couple seconds because we’ve got a little bit of time left and go through the areas of service again. Your heavy into medical.

Jim Tolbert: We’re heavy into allied health and medical assisting is our largest program in that area. Given the huge demand for health care services in this country. We do business programs, we do IT programs. We also have a cosmetology program as well at various, at some of our campuses. So it really is a broad range of entry level career education.

Jay Curry: That’s wonderful. And plans to expand on that or?

Jim Tolbert: Absolutely. There’s a lot of markets in the United States that we think would benefit from a Vista college and we hope to be in as many of them as possible in the near future.

Jay Curry: Great. Okay. Folks, we’ve been talking to Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College. VISTA. And that Web site again is…

Jim Tolbert: Vistacollege.edu.

Jay Curry: Don’t forget the edu. All right? So, we’re going to have to break and pay some bills but we’re going to be right back in a minute. Be sure to go to Texas Business Radio. That’s where everything is. We’ll be right back.

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About the Author
George Walden

George Walden

George Walden is a Managing Director and Principal in Corporate Finance Associates’ Houston office with twenty-five years experience as a middle-market investment banker. George is a member of CFA’s equipment industry practice group and an expert in the precision machining industry with special emphasis on manual machining, CNC precision machining, and gun drilling services and has been responsible for several industry-leading transactions. You can learn more about George HERE.

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