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Degrees and Graduation - Issue Briefs - Publication Number: IB13-1 (March 14, 2013)

“60% Higher Education Degree Attainment” in Missouri 

According to National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), it is “reasonable” to estimate that highly developed countries will have 60% of their citizens in possession of a higher education credential by year 2020. To remain competitive globally and to sustain a leadership position in higher education on an international level, the push for 60% of the U.S. population to have a higher education degree is now a national objective. There are many factors to consider for the University of Missouri System, especially in regards to determining which strategic direction to follow and defining the role the UM System will serve in orientation to private and independent institutions across the state of Missouri. The most prevalent models presented regarding the 60% attainment goal are produced by the Lumina Foundation, NCHEMS, and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).


Goal 2025 is a nationwide initiative which promotes the increase of U.S. citizens with high-quality degrees by 2025, and is sponsored by the Lumina Foundation.   

The Lumina Foundation outlines a path to achieve the 60% goal by the year 2025.  According to the Lumina Foundation, Missouri will need an annual increase of 6.1% in adults receiving college degrees to reach the 60% goal set for 2025.  The current percentage of Missouri citizens with higher education credentials is 34.9%. All things staying the same, Missouri is on pace to have an attainment gap of 14.9% for citizens between the ages of 25-64 with higher education credentials.  


NCHEMS, in conjunction with CLASP, has produced a model which includes public research universities, public bachelor’s and master’s universities, public two-year, and private colleges. NCHEMS outlines methods to reach 60% by 2020 and 2025, thus their strategic plans are outlined to address these years appropriately. Judging from the Missouri Department of Higher Education’s report (April 2011 Board Book, http://dhe.mo.gov/documents/BB0411.pdf ), there seems to be a consensus that the 60% goal is to be achieved in the year 2025, instead of 2020. Furthermore, based on current projections by NCHEMS, CLASP, MDHE, and Lumina, obtaining 60% attainment by 2020 is highly unfeasible.

In the NCHEMS and CLASP model, the current gap of college attaint of 25 to 64 year olds is 35.8.  In this scenario, an additional 512,216 degrees will be needed to fill the gap by 2025. Also, in terms of performance, Missouri is currently in the middle when compared to all states in the U.S. CLASP projects that if Missouri is able to reach the level of the top-performing states, approximately 184,000 bachelor’s degrees, 189,000 associate degrees and 60,000 certificates could be produced by 2025. (http://www.clasp.org/admin/site/publications_states/files/ROI-State-Fact-Sheets-Missouri.pdf).  In this scenario, an additional 79,216 degrees would be needed from other areas such as professional, master’s, and doctoral graduate degrees.

Affordability and Revenue

Another issue to consider is affordability, particularly in regard to increasing the number of students in Missouri.  The major need-based student financial-aid program, Funds for Access Missouri, has decreased as the amount of qualified students has increased (April 2011 Board Book, http://dhe.mo.gov/documents/BB0411.pdf).

In the 2010-2011 academic years, the annual maximum Access Missouri award amounts declined significantly:

  • From $1,000 to $275 to attend a public 2-year college;
  • From $2,150 to $950 to attend a public 4-year institution and Linn State Technical College
  • From $4,600 to $1,900 to attend a 4-year independent institution

Projections by CLASP regarding higher education revenue in Missouri show a revenue shortage of $30 million by the year 2025, if current postsecondary investment patters remain at the “Status Quo” level.  The model also indicates that if Missouri were to produce on the level of the high performing states, then revenues would exceed higher education costs by approximately $590 million.

Job Market and Filling the Gap

According to Lumina, due to retirement and new job openings, there will be 898,000 job vacancies between 2008 and 2018.  Of these vacancies, 523,000 will be for citizens with postsecondary credentials.  The report also indicates that by 2018, 59% of all jobs in Missouri will require some postsecondary training beyond high school.  Also in the Lumina report, by 2025, approximately 776,922 additional degrees will be needed to meet workforce demands. From this perspective, it would be appropriate for Missouri to identify the areas in Missouri with the highest demand and scale the demand for these degrees appropriately. 

According to the 2008 U.S. Census and the Lumina Foundation, there are 750,000 Missouri residents who have some college credits, but no college degree.  It would behoove Missouri to identify these citizens and provide an avenue through which these citizens can easily complete a postsecondary program.

According to the MDHE 2020 Dashboard, Missouri is currently on pace to have 50% of its population, age 25-64, in possession of an Associate’s degree or higher by 2020.  Also, the report indicates that the current U.S. Average is 40%, while Missouri holds at 35.30%. Not only is the current progress by Missouri below the national average, the current trajectory puts Missouri below the mark of 60% by the year 2025.

Fortunately, the strategic direction between the Missouri Department of Higher Education and the Lumina Foundation of Education exists in their focus on first-generation college going students, low-income students, and minority students. While Missouri lags behind the national average for citizens aged 25-64 with higher education credentials, increasing degree attainment from students in the aforementioned categories will substantially help Missouri reach the 60% attainment goal.


American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), “Background Document: A Commitment to the Future” http://www.aplu.org/document.doc?id=4140

Lumina Foundation, “Goal 2025.” http://www.luminafoundation.org/goal_2025/goal2.html

Lumina Foundation, Goal 2025 Missouri Profile http://www.luminafoundation.org/1_no_parent_nav_bar_fix/state_work/missouri/

Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education, “2020 Dashboard” http://www.dhe.mo.gov/documents/MDHEDashboard-Dec2011.pdf

National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), “Closing the College Attainment Gap between the U.S. and Most Educated Countries, and the Contributions to be made by the States,”http://www.nchems.org/pubs/docs/Closing%20the%20U%20S%20%20Degree%20Gap%20NCHEMS%20Final.pdf

National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), “Calculating the Economic Value of Increasing College Credentials by 2025.” Missouri Profile http://www.nchems.org/NCHEMSCLASPMissouriModel.swf 

Reviewed June 24, 2016.