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story.lead_photo.caption Nessa Paul receives her master's in business degree from outgoing Lincoln University President Kevin Rome on Saturday, May 13, 2017. Photo by Emil Lippe / California Democrat.

The number of students graduating from Missouri colleges and universities has increased, despite a decline in the number of high school graduates in the state, according to the state's Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

Missouri has a goal to have 60 percent of its working-age adults hold a college degree or certificate by 2025, and that percentage has increased from 48.9 percent in 2011 — when the "Big Goal" was adopted — to 53.7 percent in 2019, according to a news release this week from the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

The number of students graduating from Missouri colleges and universities has increased by about 15 percent since 2011, according to the news release.

Community and technical colleges in particular graduated 26 percent more students in 2018 than 2011. Public universities graduated 18.6 percent more students and private institutions saw an increase of 0.6 percent in graduation numbers.

"Five higher education institutions have increased graduation rates by more than 10 percentage points since 2011: Fontbonne University; Saint Louis University; State Technical College; College of the Ozarks; and Ozarks Technical Community College. Seventeen other institutions have seen at least a 5 percent increase," according to the news release.

"More students who start college are working hard and completing their degrees," said Zora Mulligan, Missouri commissioner of higher education.

"Several institutions are breaking down barriers to degree completion, and those efforts are making a significant advance in improving graduation rates," Mulligan added.

The news release noted certificate and degree completion among Missouri's minority population increased 38.1 percent since 2011.

More information about the "Big Goal" can be found at dhe.mo.gov/initiatives/MissourisBigGoal.php.

The Higher Education and Workforce Development Department expects two-thirds of all jobs in the state will require some form of higher education by 2020.

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