Home Features Leadership Dr. Hutton is Dedicated to Continuing CER and Harrison College’s Combined 200 Year History
Dr. Hutton is Dedicated to Continuing CER and Harrison College’s Combined 200 Year History

Dr. Hutton is Dedicated to Continuing CER and Harrison College’s Combined 200 Year History


Interview with Dr. Jim Hutton, President and CEO, Harrison College

Tell us briefly about your background in career education.

In the late 1980s or so, I decided to go back to school to be a college professor. I was well past 40 when I returned to school to earn my bachelor’s degree. Then I earned my MBA and Ph.D. so I could become a college professor. I quickly found that college professors work a lot harder than I thought and made a lot less than I thought. So, while working for a career college in Birmingham, I turned my path toward higher education administration, moving from an adjunct professor to a program director, then dean and then school administrator. When the school closed in 1995, Ken Horne of Virginia College and I put our schools together to do a teach-out. That became the genesis of Virginia College.

At Virginia College I was a partner, COO and CFO and then eventually the CEO from 1995 until 2007. Then I made my second attempt at retirement and failed. In 2008, I went to work at Anthem Education Group, formerly High-Tech Institute, as a chairman of the board and then became CEO in 2011, until that school was sold in April 2012. I retired again and had been working with the Research Institute, KUCCEL, and Career Education Review until I was asked to come back out of retirement yet again in August, which is when I joined Harrison College.

You recently came out of your “semi-retirement” to take a new position as CEO and President of Harrison College. What made you decide to take this position?

I have turned down other opportunities from people who wanted me to be involved in schools, and truthfully I never thought I would run a school again, but Harrison’s reputation and history from 1902 until today was especially appealing to me. Also, I have known Ken and Jason Konesco, the former presidents, for almost 20 years through PERC and CCIEG, two idea exchange groups I am involved in. My relationship with the Konescos was another reason I accepted the position. Maybe I was getting a little bored. Obviously retirement just doesn’t work for me.

How hard was this decision, especially regarding the current external environment in career education right now?

The current external environment in career education right now is one of the things that made me want to take the position. I don’t think the entire sector deserves the wrath that has been reigned down upon it lately. If everything was going great and wonderful and there were no issues from the state capitals or D.C., I probably wouldn’t be doing this. The fact that this 113-year-old school needed some leadership who wasn’t afraid of the external environment was one of the compelling reasons I took the position. If it wasn’t for the sector issues, I wouldn’t be doing it. The hardest part was with the grandkids and the family. They were not really happy about it.

What goals do you want to accomplish during your first six months, and what are your long-term goals?

Short-term, my goal is to meet everyone and get out to the 13 campuses. I’ve visited three or four campuses so far, counting online, surveying the situation and meeting the people who I don’t already know. I want to become familiar with the budgets and the numbers, if you will. But more importantly I want to become familiar with the employees, faculty, students and the facilities; develop relationships with the board of directors; that sort of thing. I want to think before we leap. There are no huge structural plans anticipated for the first six months as far as opening or closing schools or adding major program offerings. It’s more that we will continue with what we’re doing and try to improve on the already good performance of the schools.

Long-term, that’s a good question. I think everyone assumes that online is the future, and we certainly are in online in several dozen states. I’m not so sure online is the future for all career colleges. I think there’s still a need for massage therapy and medical assisting and nurses to learn their profession hands-on at a campus. We’re wrestling with that and whether online will be a service to the other campuses through a hybrid or a web-assisted model or whether it will be a totally separate major online school.

Long-term we’d like to open some more campuses in the Midwest. We believe in the small town model and being the big fish in the small pond, if you will, so that may involve adding some new program offerings such as, perhaps a trade like HVAC, and then moving the programs that we have out into other campuses. Several other markets could probably use registered nursing and other existing programs. But there are no major structural changes planned. Again, we want to continue to do what the school has been doing for more than 100 years in career focused training for our target students.

What do you think your biggest challenges will be?

I think the biggest challenges are external, which can sometimes create opportunities. I’m not saying that the school is perfect internally; any school can improve. I am going to try to bring in some of the best practices that I’ve used over the years and some ideas from other schools where I have respected colleagues. One challenge is optimizing the internal operations.

Externally the biggest challenges are the economy and the regulatory environment, specifically the issues that all career sector schools face: gainful employment and 90/10. For Harrison 90/10 is fine right now and default rates are good. So, the biggest issue externally is gainful employment and trying to find out which programs should be in what market and not trying to be a one-size-fits all model because markets are local and employer demands are different from one market to the other.

Will you continue to be the publisher of Career Education Review, and if so, why?

Yes, if you’ll have me. Part of my arrangement with Harrison is that I will continue to be the publisher of Career Education Review. Continuing with CER is important to me for several reasons. One is it has such a great editor-in-chief. I don’t have to do much other than maybe interview a few people or help with an article here and there, and I enjoy doing that. CER has a heritage almost as long as Harrison’s and when we took it over February 2014 the thought was that we didn’t want it to go away; it was and still is the voice of the career education sector and that voice needs to be heard and preserved. We still have long-range plans to have a digital archive with not just Career Education Review archives, but the entire history of the sector. It’s a valuable voice for the sector and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Tell us how you first got introduced to Career Education Review?

I first got introduced to Career Education Review when my partner in Virginia College, Ken Horne, called me in his office, showed me a stack of Career Education Reviews and told me to read them so I’d learn how to run a school. The second bit of advice he gave me was to do accreditation visits, which I’ve done and found to be incredibly valuable training. The third bit of advice was the cardboard box he handed me that had ideas from PERC. He said, implement some of these ideas and we will have a great school.

I was a subscriber for many years and shared numerous articles with our functional heads and campus presidents. Then, during one of my retirements, Michael Cooney, CER’s former editor-in-chief and publisher and a member of KUCCEL’s advisory board, told us he was going to retire and asked if we were interested in taking over CER. For the reasons mentioned above, I felt like it had a place in career education, so we agreed to take it over.

Why is CER important to schools and to the career education sector in general?

I think we need to help each other, today more than ever. For those few subscribers who don’t know Career Education Review’s history, it started out similar to an idea exchange club where school owners, managers and directors would share ideas and best practices. In days gone by, there could only be one subscriber to CER in a market. While we haven’t chosen that path, nor had Michael Cooney, the philosophy stands:

what’s good for one is good for the entire sector, and the better one does, the better we all do.

I think those ideas need a voice. It’s not so much about news and events and who got promoted. Even though that is interesting, the meat of Career Education Review is how to run a better school, how to take care of your employees and your students, staying compliant and being more successful for yourself and all the stakeholders. I believe that message needs and deserves a voice, and it’s had one for 90 years and hopefully it will for another 90.

What do you see as the future of higher education in five years and then in 10 years?

I loved what the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, said at APSCU when he quoted Carly Fiorina saying that education is going to be digital, mobile, virtual and personal in the future. I’ve thought about that a lot since I heard him say that. I’ve taught classes online in KUCCEL’s master’s degree in Career College Administration and that’s exactly the way it’s going. Things are digital, virtual and mobile. I’ve graded discussion rooms on my phone. It’s all becoming disconnected from the campus as education goes. Having said that, like I said earlier, a lot of the population is the digital student but I still think there are a lot of students who want that college experience. I don’t think those type of schools are going away.

I think the blended method of the digital and mobile will exist but there will still be a place for that personal touch of hands-on training that the career college sector has traditionally provided. There will be a place for those personal rites of passage for the “traditional” student to go to school and participate in the fraternities and the football games. However, I think learning will become more interactive and maybe fun, and the days of the professor talking for two hours are over.

I think technology is going to change the educational delivery model, whether it be in the classroom or strictly online.

Hopefully in 10 years we’ll get a better solution for K-12. I’m not a K-12 basher. I know it’s very difficult because there are so many different people involved with the local school boards and that sort of thing and it’s easy to criticize, but the results are there. We’re way below the international average. Our students are coming out of high school ill-prepared for college and we need to fix that or all colleges are going to be less successful. I think we also need to solve the cost equation. College costs can’t keep going up, up, up, up, with students incurring more and more debt, regardless of the organizational structure of the college. Hopefully some of these technology answers will help solve the cost equation, but that’s not going to happen overnight.

Jim Hutton

JAMES D. (JIM) HUTTON, PH.D., is president and CEO of Harrison College, a nationally accredited, career-focused higher education institution serving more than 3,000 students. Dr. Hutton is also publisher of Career Education Review, a nearly 90-year-old publication dedicated to providing news and resources required to operate a successful educational school. Prior to joining Harrison, Dr. Hutton was a professor and program director for the Keiser MSEd-Career College Administration program and the managing director for the Keiser University Center for Career Education and Leadership (KUCCEL). He was a co-founder of Education Corporation of America (ECA), which owns and operates private institutions of higher education throughout the United States. From 1995 until his retirement in December 2007, Dr. Hutton was the chief operating officer (1995 through 2004), chief executive officer (2004 through 2006), vice chairman and stockholder of ECA/Virginia College. Dr. Hutton began his work in post-secondary career education in 1989 as an adjunct business administration teacher and has been a department chair, academic dean, campus director, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief executive officer, chancellor and partner for various career colleges. He was the board chairperson for Anthem Education from 2008 through 2012 and the chancellor/CEO from 2010 until its sale in 2012. Hutton currently serves on the Quest Education board of directors. Dr. Hutton served as a commissioner for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) and was 2006 chair of the ACICS board. He remains an active ACICS evaluation team chairperson. Until June 2012, Dr. Hutton served on the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) Board of Directors. He earned a bachelor’s in business administration with honors from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., and graduated summa cum laude with an MBA and Ph.D. in Administration-Health Services, specialty track—Health Care Marketing, from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research interests are in career and adult education, workforce development, and services marketing.

Contact Information: James D. (Jim) Hutton, Ph.D. // President and CEO, Harrison College // Publisher, Career Education Review // 317.447.6022 // Jim.Hutton@harrison.edu

Harrison College is a nationally accredited, career-focused higher education institution serving more than 3,000 students worldwide. Founded in 1902 as Indiana Business College, Harrison provides a supportive, customized learning environment to students through 13 campuses in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and online. Harrison has graduated more than 80,000 students, with associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and certificates in more than 30 programs across six schools of study: business, criminal justice, health sciences, information technology, veterinary technology and The Chef’s Academy. Harrison is accredited by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national institutional accrediting body.


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