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For-Profit Company Is Recruiting Educators To Open Franchises of

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Its Learning Centers By Mark Walsh

The nation's third-largest for-profit provider of supplementary education has announced plans to franchise its private learning centers, and it is looking for teachers and other certified educators who want to get into the business.

American Learning Corporation, which operates 82 Brittanica Learning Centers in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, this month began actively seeking franchisees to open their own outlets.

The Brittanica centers offer after-school instructional services in reading and mathematics for both remediation and enrichment. The services typically cost about $35 an hour, and classes have low teacher-student ratios. Other services offered at the Brittanica centers include the celebrated Evelyn Wood Study Dynamics course and preparation courses for college-entrance examinations.

Alc, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., is in third place in the number of centers it has nationwide behind Sylvan Learning Corporation of Birmingham, Ala., which has 455 Sylvan Learning Centers in the United States, and Huntington Learning Corporation of Oradell, N.J., which has 102 Huntington Learning Centers.

Sylvan has long embraced franchising as a path for business growth, and only 35 of its centers are company-owned. The same goes for Huntington, which has 17 company-owned and 85 franchised centers.

Except for a handful of its oldest centers on the West Coast, American Learning has eschewed franchising until now.

"We feel we have the systems in place now that can result in a very well-run center, and we are interested in growing," said Douglas Paul, vice president for franchise development at American Franchise Learning Inc., a newly formed subsidiary of alc

"The combination of franchising and corporate-owned centers is really the right way to achieve expansion and growth," he added.

A History of Losses

Alc lost about $3 million last year on revenues of approximately $16.5 million. The company has been unprofitable since 1987, and it has closed or relocated a few unprofitable centers recently.

F. Eugene Montgomery, president and chief executive officer of rival Sylvan, said American Learning's franchise plan "is something I would have done a while ago. I think they are going to have a tough time selling centers."

American Learning is looking for investors who would like to establish a Brittanica Learning Center in any market with at least 20,000 school-aged pupils within a 30-minute drive of the site.

The franchise fee would be either $25,000 or $35,000 depending on the size of the market, and the initial investment would be an estimated $94,000 to $175,000, including the franchise fee. American Learning would take an 8.5 percent royalty from each franchisee's gross rev8enues, plus advertising fees.

There is no requirement that owners be educators, but the company is targeting its sales program toward teachers, and all center managers and instructors must be certified teachers, Mr. Paul said.

"This is a unique opportunity for teachers because they do not have many businesses where they can use their teaching skills," he said.

The company is advertising in several metropolitan newspapers and education trade journals to draw the attention of educators as potential franchisees.

American Learning officials say they do not have a projection of how many franchised outlets they hope to open in the first year.

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