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Mississippi auditor suggests revamping university funding based on job outcomes



state auditor shad white
State Auditor Shad White (credit: Mississippi Office of the State Auditor)
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State Auditor Shad White unveiled a report advocating a shift in how taxpayer money is distributed across Mississippi’s public universities. The study emphasized supporting degree programs with graduates that remain in Mississippi and secure well-paying jobs.

Auditor White commented on the ineffectiveness of the current spending structure, noting that the taxpayer return on investment varies significantly across majors. As an example, the report compared electrical engineering and anthropology majors. Graduates in electrical engineering earned over $71,000 annually in their initial jobs in Mississippi. In contrast, anthropology graduates made less than a third of that amount, with many leaving the state and not contributing to its economy.

This report, part of a series addressing brain drain, highlighted a labor shortage in areas like healthcare and business, as identified by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Auditor White believes that taxpayer money should be redirected to produce graduates in fields more beneficial to Mississippi’s economy, instead of majors that may not offer immediate returns to the state.

Auditor White further questioned the rationale behind funding certain programs, like gender studies, using taxpayer money. He opined that some of these programs could potentially mislead young minds. White contended that reconfiguring funding methods would also be advantageous for students. He stated, “We need to change universities’ incentives so they’ll nudge students into high-value majors.”

Several states, including North Dakota and Texas, are reevaluating or amending their university funding structures to address workforce needs.

The full report is available on the Auditor’s website.

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