The state is trying to change that with a new program it says will not only increase the number of college degree holders, but boost local economy as well.
Moberly Area Community College in Hannibal was one of the first schools in the state to test out the new Missouri reverse transfer program.
Amy See headed the pilot program last semester and says it was very beneficial.
Students only need 15 college credits to be considered for the program.
"If a student has completed all of the coursework that would make them eligible for an Associate's degree, we want to make sure that we can grant that Associate's degree that they've earned," she said.
See says the program branches out past the classroom, and should have a positive trickle-down impact on the economy.
"By having a more educated work force, it makes it more appealing for corporations and other organizations to locate in the state and provide job growth," said See.
Missouri wants to increase the number of working-age residents with college degrees to 60 percent within the next decade.
Mckenzie Disselhorst with the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce says the success of this program could have a huge impact.
"Potential employers when they're looking at the work force, they know that they are going to be able to have the skills in the people that they're looking for if they decide to relocate to Hannibal," Disselhorst said.
Long-term, she can see local businesses flourishing.
"When the economy grows, our city is able to provide more services, better infrastructure and those are important," she said.
The state is currently working on making the program retroactive, but colleges say the problem is getting hold of old student records.
Right now, there's no timetable for that program expansion.?