Harris Bankcorp of Chicago is counting on a year-old tuition rebate program to help boost sales of its proprietary mutual funds through third parties.

More than 100 schools-including Drexel University in Pennsylvania, Clark University in Massachusetts, and Elmira College in New York-participate in the program. And more than 300 investors have signed up for the rebate.

Harris got involved in the program to boost distribution of its funds outside the bank.

So the subsidiary of Bank of Montreal added a load class in March to increase the number of companies selling the $7 billion-asset fund family.

Just three companies sold the Harris Insight Funds last year, but now there are 52, said Peter P. Capaccio, a senior vice president of Harris Trust and Savings Bank and the director of its investment products group.

And in recent months Harris has doubled, to eight, the number of wholesalers pitching its proprietary fund family to broker-dealers and financial planners.

The bank has also recently signed selling agreements with 35 to 40 brokerages, said Thomas P. Kelly, a bank vice president and the director of marketing for its investment products group. This unit provides sales and marketing for the funds.

Besides courting brokerages, Harris is working with the colleges participating in the rebate program to sponsor investment conferences at which parents can learn about the school, funding, and investments, Mr. Capaccio said.

Harris is also helping colleges reach out to graduates through articles in alumni publications and direct mail, Mr. Kelly said.

The rebate program-which offers up to $13,800 over four years-is offered with Sage Scholars Inc., a Philadelphia educational consulting firm. Sage approached Harris about the program after a deal with Pittsburgh-based Federated Investors fell through.

Mr. Capaccio said it is difficult to determine the program's impact on assets under management.

He estimated that the program has helped the Insight Funds increase assets by $50 million. However, the change in strategy should help increase assets by 20% to 25% a year, he added.

"It's a combination of building awareness and building distribution," Mr. Capaccio said. "None of these programs just kind of happen overnight."

The 18 portfolios in the Harris Insight family are managed by Harris Investment Management. All but one index fund and three money market funds have a load option. The highest up-front sales charge is 5.5%, with a 90% payout to the brokerage, Mr. Capaccio said.

The Harris Insight Funds are still offered no-load through companies including Waterhouse Securities Inc., Fidelity Investments, and Charles Schwab & Co.

They are sold with sales charges through companies including Everen Capital Corp. of Chicago, Parker/Hunter Inc. of Pittsburgh, Cigna Financial Services Inc. of Hartford, Conn., and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. of St. Louis, Mr. Capaccio said.

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