Rush City’s Dennis Frandsen offers free college for his hometown’s high school seniors

As Minnesota grapples with an increasingly urgent workforce skills gap, stories like Minnesota banker Dennis Frandsen’s offer inspiration.

Frandsen—whose business holdings include banks and manufacturing companies that employ 1,000 people in four states—recently offered to award the entire senior class at Rush City High School with two years of free college at Pine Technical and Community College.

The Star Tribune had this to say:

A man who never went to college has offered full-ride community college scholarships to every graduate of Rush City High School this year.

The unprecedented offer from businessman and Rush City resident Dennis Frandsen came “out of the blue,” said Pine Technical and Community College President Joe Mulford.

The scholarships to Pine City Tech include a $1,000 stipend for books and tools for students who want to earn a two-year degree in programs like nursing, education, automotive repair, gunsmithing, computer science and other vocational trades.

Frandsen was moved to make this remarkable gift while touring the Pine City campus recently:

Struck by the needs of Rush City kids, and wanting to make a difference in his community, Frandsen said he saw a way forward right then and there.

“I just realized, ‘Wow, it’s right underneath our nose,’” he said, wholly impressed with his hometown’s trade school.

The Star Tribune noted that some of Rush City High School’s 68 seniors have already applied for the Frandsen Foundation’s scholarships, and all have been invited to meet with Frandsen himself. According to the paper,

Frandsen, the son of Wisconsin dairy farmers, started logging trees near Luck, Wis., after graduating from high school….

[He] paid for his grandchildren’s college education after seeing firsthand how difficult it was for them to transition to the workplace, especially with student loan debt acting “like a terrible anchor around their neck.”

“Wouldn’t you be better off to come out of college without any debt?” he said.

The Star Tribune noted that about 10 percent of Rush City’s population holds a bachelor’s degree or more, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately one-third of the school district’s graduates do not go on to post-secondary education, according to Mulford:

Frandsen, who has donated to the tech school in the past, told Mulford that after his tour he was thinking of how to get more students to attend [post-secondary institutions].

“Money is off the table at this point,” said Mulford.