Three University of Missouri campuses are part of a national program looking to increase college access for minorities and lower income students and increase their graduation rates.
The University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and the University of Missouri-Kansas City are participating in the project. The Association of Public Land-grant Universities has assembled 130 schools around the country to address the issues of college costs, barriers to enrollment and graduation rates of students who start degree programs.
Mike Brost, assistant director of public affairs for the association, said all of the schools involved want to increase enrollment, and they need to work together.
“Institutions aren’t always excited about sharing notes on how to attract students, because they often compete for students,” Brost said. “But the common goals are so important they see the need to work together. With the number of high school graduates stagnating nationwide, schools need to focus on the untapped population of potential college students.”
Missouri S&T Vice Provost Jeff Cawlfield said the number of high school students traditionally interested in STEM fields is declining.
“For our workforce, and for our society we’re going to have to figure out a way to attract and keep and graduate underrepresented minority groups, first generation students, the low-income folks socioeconomically,” Cawlfield said.
Representatives from the schools met this month in sub-groups to begin the process. Mizzou is in the cluster representing eastern universities, UMKC is in a group with metropolitan schools, and Missouri S&T is in the tech sub-set.
They will continue to meet in the coming years, with a goal of making improvements in the overall number of degrees the schools award by 2025. There isn’t a specific goal, but the organization is promoting the intent of “awarding hundreds of thousands of more degrees.”
Some of the specific areas schools are examining are making it easier to apply to college, reducing costs, increasing scholarship opportunities, and addressing financial and social issues that may keep a student who starts college from finishing it.
Cawlfield said the program is of great importance to his campus and the nation.
“We need to make sure there is a workforce big enough and prepared enough to fill the jobs requiring a college education,” Cawlfield said. “This campus, and this institution as a whole, the University of Missouri, has to address this.”
The schools in the program will connect through web meetings and conference calls, and then in-person in November 2019 to report on specific goals and progress.
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