New study from State Auditor’s Office argues for spending more on college majors likely to stay in the state and earn a good living
State Auditor Shad White released a report Wednesday, Sept 20 arguing for changing the way taxpayer money is spent at Mississippi’s public universities. The report highlights the degree programs whose graduates are most likely to stay in Mississippi or land a good-paying job versus the ones who are not.
“It’s part of my job as State Auditor to show you how your taxpayer money is spent and whether it’s being spent wisely. In this case, it is not,” said White.
The report states Mississippi taxpayers send public universities the same amount to educate both an electrical engineering major and an anthropology major, for example, but the return to the taxpayers is dramatically different for each major. Electrical engineering majors went on to earn more than $71,000 per year in their first jobs in Mississippi, while anthropology majors earned less than a third of that. Most anthropology majors also left the state, contributing nothing back to Mississippi’s economy at all.
The report is one of a series on brain drain and its cost to the taxpayers from White’s office. It notes that Mississippi has a severe labor shortage according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in some specific professions, like healthcare and business. White’s team argued taxpayer money should go to create more of those graduates and less graduates with degrees that are not as useful to Mississippi’s economy.
“I’m not sure why a plumber who pays his taxes should have to finance a degree in gender studies in Mississippi,” said White. “Frankly, some of these programs seem like they exist just to warp the minds of young people.”
White also argued changing the way universities are funded would be better for students. “It’s more expensive for a university to hire a computer science professor than it is a sociology professor who’s an expert in stand-up comedy. The universities love it when kids go into the cheap programs. But the kids often take on debt and can’t get a job to repay the debt when they choose that kind of a major. We need to change universities’ incentives so they’ll nudge students into high-value majors.”
North Dakota, Texas, and other states are currently either considering or changing the way they fund universities to fit the needs of their workforce.
To read the full report, visit the Auditor’s website and search “majors” in the search bar.
Auditor White described this study in greater detail in an article called “Jimmy Buffet Didn’t Need a Music Degree” in The Wall Street Journal. The article can be found here.