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.

The idea came to Frandsen while he was touring the 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.

Some of the 68 high school seniors at Rush City have already applied for the scholarships, and all of the students have been invited to meet with Frandsen later this week. He also extended the scholarship offer to the area's four home-schooled students.

Frandsen, the son of Wisconsin dairy farmers, started logging trees near Luck, Wis., after graduating from high school. Today he oversees a collection of manufacturing companies and banks that employ 1,000 people in four states. The Frandsen Corp. holds about $1.5 billion in assets, according to the private company's website.

Frandsen said he paid for his grandchildren's college educations 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.

About 10 percent of Rush City's population has earned a bachelor's degree or more, according to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. About a third of Rush City High School's graduating class of around 400 do not go on to postsecondary 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.

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

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329 @_mattmckinney