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More than a year and a half ago, we supported Missouri's entry into the nationwide trend of establishing adult high schools. Now, we're glad to report positive results from the initiative.

The schools have attracted more students than projected, and the superintendent of the so-called Missouri Goodwill Centers said outcomes for the first sets of graduates look promising.

The state contracted with MERS Goodwill to operate the four adult high schools, built to enable people over 21 to earn high school degrees free of charge.

The last to launch will be located in Columbia and serve Mid-Missouri. It is set to open in October. The other three schools are located in Poplar Bluff, Springfield and St. Louis.

They are funded through the Missouri Department of Social Services and MERS Goodwill contributions. The state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education administers the program. The four schools' total annual budget will be $9.5 million-$10 million.

Mark Arens, executive vice president of MERS Goodwill and superintendent of Missouri's Goodwill Excel Centers, expected St. Louis to draw 285 students. Enrollment has been consistently over 400. In Poplar Bluff, he expected 125. Actual enrollment has been as high as 180. In Springfield, enrollment has been 25-50 students higher than the 175 projection.

Enrollment in Columbia has quickly risen to more than 200.

Already, 41 people already have earned diplomas from the first three schools to open. These are adults who, for whatever reason, didn't finish high school but are jumping at a chance to better their lives through that education.

We applaud their efforts. Once you're out in the real world, often with families and careers, it's not easy to return to school.

We also applaud the work by the state and MERS Goodwill to bring this program to fruition.

When people are willing to put this much effort into bettering their lives — and indirectly, our overall economy — we believe that's a good investment of state tax dollars.

News Tribune

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