Mississippi education officials met Wednesday to tackle a growing problem, lagging graduation rates within Mississippi's public colleges.
They heard from the leader of a national organization who wants to help turn the problem around.
It's Dennis Jones' job to reveal eye-opening information about public colleges in Mississippi compared to other states.
"At 20 percent of the adult population with a baccalaureate degree or higher, you're second to last," Jones said.
Mississippi fares much better when it comes to associate degrees.
"There's a strong and direct relationship between education attainment and economic benefits," said Jones.
That includes benefits for the state. The more education you have, the less likely you are to be drawing on Medicaid. And it includes benefits for survival.
"The more education individuals get, not only do they have better jobs, they have jobs at all," said Jones.
According to a 2007 national report, 58.2 percent of MSU's students graduated within six years. At USM, 47.6 percent graduated in that same time period.
"I wanted to know more about the correlation between educational attainment and economic prosperity in our state," said Meridian Community College president, Dr. Scott Elliott, who attended this meeting seeking solutions to increase graduation rates.
"Do they come to college ready for college? Once they're in college, how easy is it to transfer from 2-year to 4-year? Once they're in the 4-year, how likely are they to succeed?" said Elliott.
Elliott said he just hopes the focus doesn't rest entirely on the numbers.
"We shouldn't be measured, in my opinion, strictly on the number of people we graduate because we can have folks come to us," said Elliott. "For instance, in adult basic education. They may not get a college degree, but they exit our institutions just better-prepared human beings to enter the workforce."
Other solutions suggested at the meeting include having schools establish standardized goals... And explore how to measure progress. Dr. Elliott said Meridian Community College may start mapping out specific goals based on what was discussed at Wednesday's meeting.