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New university plans to teach in Rochester in 2012

Pending final approvals, National American Universityhopes to be offering classes in Rochester by spring 2012.

The South Dakota-based private university offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in health care and business areas. It has 34 campuses in the Midwest, with five in Minnesota.

If everything goes as planned, Rochester will be its first campus outside of the Twin Cities area.

American University CEO Ronald Shapesays his institution has signed a lease for space at 3906 East Frontage Road North U.S. 52 in the Maplewood Square shopping center.

Now it just needs final approvals from regulators. While Shape doesn't anticipate any glitches, he cautions that that it is not a done deal yet.

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Why come to Rochester, which already has a University of Minnesota campus, St. Scholastica, Augsburg, Cardinal Stritch, Minnesota School of Business and other institutions?

"In the last seven years, we've developed a very strong allied health program. We've been looking at locations where it would be a good fit," Shape says. "It is very obvious that with Mayo Clinic and the health focus of Rochester that there is an opportunity to bring some of those academic programs into that environment."

Many of their programs are offered online, though some classes do meet face-to-face as the best way to connect to students. Like most academic organizations, American University's curriculum is a hybrid of virtual and in-person instruction.

That means classrooms will be built in Rochester as well as offices for what could eventually grow to a staff of 12 to 18, Shape says.

He anticipates that once the Rochester program matures, it could have 18 to 24 faculty members.

While it is accredited by state and regional agencies, he points out that American University also turns to industry organizations to accredit individual programs.

That boosts graduates' standing with potential employers in their field, Shape says.

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