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Molly DeMinck, left, and Jessica Soucy, right, tie knots in fleece to make blankets for Project Ignite Light on Friday, July 18, 2014, during their community service day at Rasmussen College in south Fargo, N.D. DeMinck is the administrative assistant for Rasmussen College in Fargo, and Soucy is the administrative assistant in Moorhead, Minn. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Rasmussen College emphasizing service, workforce readiness under new initiative

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FARGO – Rasmussen College, which has campuses in Fargo and Moorhead, unveiled a platform this month that commits to workforce readiness, business partnership and community prosperity.

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The “Building Community Through Education” platform is one way the private, for-profit school is living out its public benefit corporation status, which it adopted in January.

Benefit corporations are a new class of corporations that requires businesses to voluntarily meet higher standards of purpose, accountability and transparency. Such organizations must create a positive impact on society and the environment, and report on their performance in biennial reports. It does not affect the corporation’s tax status.

Minnesota passed legislation this spring allowing businesses to organize and operate as benefit corporations, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

According to BenefitCorp.net, 26 states and the District of Columbia have enacted and 12 more have introduced legislation allowing for benefit corporations. North Dakota is not among them.

Rasmussen is incorporated as a public benefit corporation in the state of Delaware.

Tamryn Hennessy, vice president of career services and public benefit initiatives at Rasmussen, said the corporate benefit status is a natural fit for what Rasmussen has always been.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge change,” Hennessy said, “but now it allows us to define this more to our student and staff and communities.”

Among its new and ongoing initiatives are commitments to community service. This coming year, employees will be given an additional eight paid hours to volunteer, said Molly Andersen, media relations manager.

The college has also expanded its annual community service day, which was held across all 24 Rasmussen College campuses Friday. It is looking to adopt a national community service student organization at all campuses.

Other activities that relate to the platform include offering free meeting space to community organizations for education and training, opening its Virtual Career Center to local organizations and businesses, and sponsoring career communitywide fairs.

For-profit colleges have been the target of criticism, including comments last year by President Barack Obama and a Senate committee investigation from 2010 to 2012.

Hennessy said adopting the public benefit corporation status wasn’t an attempt to counter those negative perceptions, but highlights why Rasmussen is even more impactful, “harnessing the private enterprise for public good.”

“It isn’t trying to be a nonprofit or hide behind that. It is more being very proud of what we are and all the potential it offers,” Hennessy said.

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Sherri Richards
Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com
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