MANKATO (AP) - The aviation program at Minnesota State University Mankato has grown about 60 percent in the last four years as demand for pilots is expected to rise nationwide.

The program offers the state's only bachelor's degree in aviation. The approaching wave of baby boomer retirements is expected to hit the aviation industry hard. The Air Lines Pilots Association says 21,000 pilots are expected to retire from large U.S. airlines in the next decade.

Mankato's program was recently accredited by Aviation Accreditation Board International and has 176 students enrolled. The university contracts with a local flight school, North Star Aviation, to provide training. Many students work as North Star flight instructors for about a year after graduation to accumulate the additional flight hours necessary to work for an airline.

St. Cloud State University announced the closure of it's aviation program back in 2011. The last students left the SCSU program in May of 2014.