September 6, 2013

St. Louis  - The Missouri Department of Higher Education will host the Missouri Completion Academy Sept. 10 - 11 in St. Louis in conjunction with Complete College America. CCA is a national non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees, and to close attainment gaps for traditionally under-represented groups.

Missouri is only the fourth state in the nation to work with CCA to invite public colleges and universities to attend a completion academy. Teams from nine state colleges and universities will participate. They were selected to attend based on self-assessments submitted to the Department of Higher Education in June.

The institutions selected to participate are East Central College, Harris-Stowe State University, Jefferson College, Lincoln University, Metropolitan Community College, Moberly Area Community College, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University and St. Louis Community College.

The intensive two-day academy provides each institutional team with a trained facilitator and six experts who help the teams adopt strategies to improve graduation rates.

Students encounter many obstacles to completing their certificate and degree requirements. Participating college and university teams will learn how to improve success for students who must take remedial coursework, how to create schedules that help students fit coursework into busy lives and how to incentivize students to complete their requirements, among other strategies.

Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell says the academy will improve the state's graduation rate, which is a critical component of the state's big goal for higher education.

"Currently, 46 percent of Missourians have a degree or certificate that leads to employment," Russell said. "The goal is to increase that number to 60 percent of Missourians by 2025. We know that many students enroll in college but never finish their requirements. The academy will address the reasons they drop out and help institutions draft policies that improve outcomes for students."

Complete College America is sending staff to the academy, including Michael Baumgartner, originally from central Missouri. Baumgartner says in just 10 years, six of 10 new jobs will require a college education, but currently, only half of all students who enter college graduate within six years.

"Complete College America chose Missouri to be the site of our fourth institution-based academy because it has shown significant progress in addressing obstacles to degree attainment, including limits on tuition increases and awarding state funding based on performance measures," said Baumgartner. "It is clear that Missouri is committed to helping students successfully complete post-secondary education and  prepare them for employment and productivity."

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