Jason Tolbert has been CFO of Ouachita Baptist University of Arkadelphia since 2015, but he’d been a member of the team long before.
Tolbert, who began his career working at Alltel Information Systems and PricewaterhouseCoopers, is an OBU grad who joined the Arkansas Baptist Foundation of Little Rock in 2004. As controller, he worked with many of the state’s Baptist institutions, including OBU, helping them manage their endowments and scholarship funds.
Tolbert got to know OBU’s previous CFO, Brett Powell, while the pair went through the MBA program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. When Powell left OBU to become director of the state Department of Higher Education in 2015, Tolbert’s name came up as a possible successor. Tolbert interviewed with OBU’s then-president, Rex Horne, and got the job.
“Yeah, it was a big step up,” Tolbert said. “I think at the foundation we had about eight employees, and here we have about 400 employees. So it’s just a lot bigger organization.”
Tolbert said the last six years have been rewarding. He said the university has refinanced all its long-term debt at a rate that’s saved it a million dollars a year in interest. OBU has also grown enrollment at a time when fewer people are going to college. And it’s added to its suite of graduate programs, part of a broader effort to diversify revenue.
The university’s endowment has also grown, from $78 million in 2015 to $145 million in 2021.
“So the growth of our endowment and then the reduction of our debt have really changed what our balance sheet or financial statements look like,” Tolbert said. “So it’s been rewarding to see that happen.”
Tolbert said that while the pandemic has presented a great challenge, helping the university navigate the past year “while still fulfilling our mission” has been “a rewarding struggle.” He hopes to see his children walking the halls at OBU someday soon.