While many career colleges are run by large anonymous corporations, Harrison College remains today – as it was when it opened in Marion in 1902 – a family-owned educational institution. A former educator, Charles Cring, started Marion Business College because he saw that a diversifying Indiana economy needed trained workers. The needed skills in 1902 were shorthand, typing, penmanship, English, bookkeeping and accounting. He built his school based on educating his students in those areas, helping them be marketable in the world of business. By 1913, the college extended from Elkhart in the north to Columbus in the south. This school was the model for the multiple campuses which became known as Indiana Business College, and more recently, Harrison College.
From the beginning, Cring built Harrison College by adhering to some fundamental rules, which Harrison still maintains today:
- Offer students real value for their investment
- Prepare students to compete for good-paying jobs
- Hire talented teachers and managers
- Offer free lifetime employment assistance to alumni
- Reward employees to ensure a quality business education
Just as Harrison uses the power of the Internet and other high-tech methods today, it was also on the “cutting edge” in the early days of the school. At the time, the most advanced technology was central Indiana’s electric street railway system, the interurban. Ora E. Butz, the general manager from 1916 to 1926, worked out of Marion but traveled to all 10 campuses on the interurban. People from all the campuses could also converge for meetings without overnight stays.
Harrison was also a leader in educating women. While much of the office work from 1900 to 1920 was performed by men, women were making strong inroads…and Harrison was there to teach them. Female enrollment was fast approaching 50% by 1915 and grew even higher as young men reported for military duty.
Because of its high standards of teaching, Harrison even thrived during the Great Depression and during World War II because employers knew they could look to Harrison graduates for well-trained people to hire. When the Baby Boomers became college age in the 1960s and the percentage of students continuing their education past high school increased, Harrison continued to grow and excel.
Ken Konesco took the helm in 1986 as Harrison's new president. In the 1990s Harrison College dramatically expanded its program offerings because there was such a need for skilled, trained workers. Thanks to his insight, Harrison moved beyond offering just the basic office skills so that the curriculum could expand into the many areas of study offered today. One example is the start of health sciences programs in 1994.
Today, Harrison teaches on 12 campuses plus a culinary school, and also offers Online Studies to anyone in the world! The same principles of keeping the management local and the education meaningful that started the school remain today.