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Thursday, August 19, 1999

Dreams of Wealth and Knowledge

Reported by Hayley Green

Parents dream of seeing their children graduate from a good school, not to mention the lofty goals of those pesky grandparents. ("Send them to Harvard! Send them to Cornell!") However, achieving that dream includes the harsh reality of today's college tuition.

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  • Harris Insight
  • The Harris Insight family of funds, an 18 fund complex with $7.25 billion under management, has keyed in on this All-American dilemma and uses it to market its funds. In cooperation with Sage Scholars, Harris Insight funds has started a marketing campaign enticing investors with college tuition reductions, called College Insight, started in July of 1998, with the marketing campaign started this past March.

    The program was originally developed by the president of Sage Scholars, an educational consulting firm from Philadelphia, a former dean of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

    A college-bound child can be sponsored by a family member to receive up to a $13,800 or one year's tuition, whichever is less. The rewards are based on aggregate account balances at the end of each quarter. The reduction rewards are calculated by multiplying the quarterly account values by 1.25% and are approximately 5% of aggregate fund assets on an annual basis.

    For example, if you invest $100,000 in a Harris Insight fund, 5% would come out to a $5,000 reduction. The $5,000 is credited over the four years of college. There are currently 118 private colleges and universities throughout the U.S. to choose from, and Harris plans to add 50 new institutions per year. The discount is absorbed by the college or university.

    The institutions on the list include DePaul University in Illinois, St. Lawrence University in New York and Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.

    This is a very attractive deal for a family whose income is too high to receive scholarships, said Arnold Mayster, vice president and national accounts manager for the investment products group at Harris.

    "It kind of works like frequent flyer mileage," Mayster said, "in the same way that airlines reduce fares when they want to fill seats. Sage Scholars also gives the list of children in the program to the participating colleges and the schools have the opportunity to market to them."

    Mayster says the response has been amazing. "Many funds perform very well, there are a lot of those. This plan gives people a reason to look at our product. The funds already work, the program just makes them more attractive," Mayster said.

    Harris is concentrating on marketing the new program through brokerage firms including seminars, mailings, presentations, and public relations. "Some colleges themselves will be marketing it," Mayster said.

    A year ago Harris also started a gifting programs to non-profit organizations. After a participating organization has sent a mailer to its list of donors about the Harris Insight Funds, Harris gives a percentage of the inflows from that mailing back to the organization. Harris said that at some point the company will combine the two programs so alumni can contribute to the universities they attended. 

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