Santa Barbara Business College, one of the oldest private business schools in California, has been in continuous operation since its founding in August 1887. A key to the school’s longevity has been adaptability. As the college’s founder, J. E. Metzger, pointed out in 1888, “The world moves with a wonderful velocity. : Old methods are dead; the new ones are what you need and must have :”-words that certainly apply to today’s fast-paced technology.
The Santa Barbara Business College and Normal Institute originally offered courses in banking, merchandising, shorthand, typing, and business law, as well as teacher training courses, hence the “Normal” in the college’s full name. The school first set up in a portion of the former Congregational Church on the southwest corner of Ortega and Santa Barbara streets. Shortly thereafter, the school moved to rooms in the Cook Building, popularly known as the Upper Clock Building, at 934 State Street.
Within a few years, Metzger moved on and the school was taken over by its former assistant principal and secretary, Edward B. Hoover, who would continue to run it until his death in 1931. Hoover was born to an Iowa farming family in 1863. The family journeyed to California in 1876 and eventually settled, although for just a short time, in Mission Canyon. They then returned to Iowa only to make their way back to Santa Barbara in 1887. Hoover had attended business school and had teacher training in Illinois. He also studied art and considered painting as a career for a short time.
Hoover was very much the civic booster. He was a charter member of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. One of the more interesting projects in which he was involved was a proposal to build a railroad to link Santa Barbara with Bakersfield. The idea was that Santa Barbara could become a major seaport, shipping out the agricultural bounty of the San Joaquin Valley. Nothing came of the venture; when the president of the Santa Fe Railroad pronounced the idea “nonsense,” the project was dropped.
In its early years, the school offered students room and board for $16 per month. Tuition for the full Business Course was $75 and included classes in English, geography, French, and Spanish in the attempt to produce a well-rounded graduate. One class given quite a bit of emphasis was penmanship, for “a good business hand : is an essential factor of success in life.”
The school year ran from early August until the end of June with classes lasting five hours per day. The student/teacher ratio was one to one and night instruction was offered for those students who had day jobs. There was also a Preparatory Department designed for students whose skills were not yet up to a level where they were ready to take the regular business courses.
The school had a number of homes throughout the years; in 1907, it moved into Santa Rosa Hall, a former theater, at 29 East Arrellaga Street. When the 1925 earthquake badly damaged this building, the school found quarters in La Arcada in the 1100 block of State Street. After Hoover’s death, John Long bought the school, guiding it through the Great Depression. The Long family sold the school in 1968, but John’s son, Robert, continued to manage the school into the early 1970s. Today, the college’s parent firm operates campuses in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Ventura, and Bakersfield and offers courses in information technology, paralegal training, and medical administration among other fields. “The world moves with a wonderful velocity” indeed.