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Class 101 is salve for student stress


Tom Pabin, right, founder of Class 101, with one of the students he helped guide through college applications.

Formerly a youth minister and financial adviser, Tom Pabin’s life took a turn after losing his parents, grandparents and godparents by the time he hit his mid 20s. He began to search for a new raison d’etre, knew he wanted to make a positive difference in the world and found his calling after helping a girl in his youth ministry who was struggling with the onerous college application process.

It didn’t take long before word spread among parents and other students in the congregation and beyond. Six months later Pabin was informally helping students choose colleges, as well as shepherding their application through the admissions process and seeking out financial aid. The need was obviously there, along with a healthy serving of parental and student anxiety, so he realized this was his true calling.

In a country where college is a prerequisite but paying for it still falls squarely on ambitious young people building their future, he soon founded Class 101.

“In six months, we had 30 students, another year or two after that I had students all throughout the state of Kentucky,” he said, adding that additional locations were soon opened in Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. Pabin franchised the concept in 2007.

Beyond home base

Six years later, as Class 101 continued its rapid growth, Pabin began advertising the concept outside of the Southern states, and saw that interest was indeed universal. By the end of 2018, the company had 31 individual franchises with locations in 16 states and five countries. He expects to open an additional 20 to 25 locations during 2019.

The way Pabin sees things, paying $100,000 or more for a four-year education at a public school has become the norm in recent years, so spending money to remove stress, maximize financial assistance and pick the best-possible school are worth the expense, which ranges from $2,500 to $4,500 in most markets.

Class 101

Students learn the ins and outs of college admission at a Class 101 seminar.

“We have a business that people learn and grow and develop like any franchise around a passion play,” he said. “You have outrageously expensive colleges, you have a time in life that’s hard to communicate with teenagers, and now it’s more complex than ever, it’s more competitive than ever, so you want a college planner on your side to help put your kid ahead of somebody else.”

Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, where his dad split time between a steel mill and his Dairy Queen franchise, Pabin’s accustomed to franchising, even though he personally never attended college, which he acknowledged is “pretty ironic.” His own children are in high school, so he’s getting a personalized version of what his customers go through. Following his own advice, he’s not advising his own kids in their decision.

“They’re not going to listen to the old man,” he said. “This is all about really being involved with young people’s lives and helping them become the best person they can be through this process of going and getting into college.”

More specifically, Class 101 offers ACT and SAT test preparation, ongoing mentorship to talk about grades and goals, resume assistance, ongoing trainings about specific colleges, as well as the all-encompassing focus on mitigating the cost of attending college.

“We want somebody who’s going to have some personality, somebody who’s going to be gregarious,” Pabin said about the type of entrepreneurs he seeks to attract. “We want somebody who wants to do it themselves, so that’s what we’re looking for with a franchise owner—somebody with a calling who wants to learn and wants to make a difference in the world.”

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