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May 29, 2015

Cape Girardeau public hearing to focus on improving college completion rates

Ideas for improving Missouri’s college completion rates will be the focus of a public hearing about the state’s higher education system June 4 in Cape Girardeau.

The hearing, hosted by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Southeast Missouri State University. The hearing is the last in a series of nine hearings being held across the state to gather information for a new coordinated plan for higher education in Missouri.

“Completing a degree or certificate is essential for students to fully benefit from their investment in higher education,” said David Russell, Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education. “We must improve college completion rates if we are to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need for the jobs of the future.”

By 2018, nearly 60 percent of the jobs in Missouri will require a two- or four-year degree or professional certificate. Currently, about 49 percent of Missourians have earned a degree or certificate.

Missouri’s college completion rates have remained flat in recent years. In 2013, about 55.3 percent of college students complete a bachelor’s degree in six years, compared to 54.4 percent in 2009. About 37.7 percent of students completed an associate degree in three years or transferred to a four-year university in 2013 compared to 38.5 percent in 2009.

The public hearing also will include panel discussions about higher education challenges in rural Missouri and preparing the state’s next generation of teachers. Panelists include administrators from a number of colleges, universities and school districts including Southeast Missouri State University, Mineral Area College, Three Rivers Community College, Cape Girardeau Public Schools and Scott Country Central School District.

A steering committee of 36 leaders in business and industry, education, and government is working with the coordinating board to identify issues and develop recommendations for improving the state’s higher education system.

The public is invited to testify at the hearing. Public comments also can be posted on the Department of Higher Education’s website at: dhe.mo.gov/blueprintcomments.php.

More information about the public hearings is available at dhe.mo.gov/documents/PublicHearings.pdf.

The new plan, “Preparing Missourians to Succeed:  A Blueprint for Higher Education,” will be presented to the coordinating board for approval in December. For additional information about the development of the plan, including a list of steering committee members and major areas of interest, visit dhe.mo.gov/blueprint.php.