MSU students to learn about cooperatives

Students at Minot State University have a chance to learn all about the inner workings of cooperatives this semester through a class offered by a North Dakota State University professor over interactive television.

In addition, 20 $800 scholarships are being offered by CoBank for those who pass the course. Everett Dobrinski, former chairman of Verendrye Electric Cooperative, is the current chair of CoBank, a cooperative bank based in Colorado.

There’s still room in the class, which starts Jan. 9. To enroll, students have to be MSU students and complete the form at (

Greg McKee, an associate professor of agribusiness and applied economics at NDSU in Fargo, has been teaching the class for seven years, but this is the first time it will be offered at MInot State.

McKee said the course, Cooperatives BUSN 474, will cover the origins of cooperative businesses, scope of cooperatives in the economy, cooperative business management and governance and cooperative business finance.

Cooperatives are located throughout North Dakota, said McKee. In the Minot area, customers get electricity from Verendrye Electric, a cooperative, and telephone service from SRT Communications, also a cooperative. Individual businesses such as Best Western and Carpet One are also cooperatives, said McKee.

McKee said cooperatives differ from other businesses because customers are also owners of the business and have some control over policy decisions as well as merely a consumer. That can impact how policy and financial decisions are made at a cooperative. Despite how common they are locally, people in the state may not have a clear understanding of the business model of a cooperative.

McKee said later in the semester his students will be assigned to tour area business cooperative and will also work on case studies of problems that have faced cooperatives. For instance, what happened at Crystal Sugar in the Red River Valley area when area growers produced too many sugar beets? Students will also take a look at how Verendrye decides how many power poles to build.

McKee said the class is valuable for students who hope to work for a cooperative, but also those in other fields of study. Some of the students who have enrolled are majoring in fields such as business, agriculture or engineering. McKee said knowledge of cooperatives would also be useful for people going into accounting or the law, as well as ordinary consumers.

JoAnn Linrud, dean of the College of Business at Minot State University, said it is a good opportunity for students majoring in business to learn about how cooperatives operate, especially since North Dakota is a state with so many cooperatives. Linrud said the university is trying to make students aware of the opportunity, though it is short notice with classes starting in just a few days.

Students at Dickinson State, North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota and Minot State University can take the class, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays, over the interactive video network. McKee said the class is also offered online. Students taking the class online need to register through North Dakota State University.

For more information, contact McKee at 231-8521 or e-mail at gregory.mckee@