Mississippi State Auditor Shad White set the social media world on fire last week challenging how the state spends money on college and universities.
In a series of posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, White expressed his belief that college degrees that produce a more positive impact on the state’s economy should be prioritized in terms of receiving taxpayer dollars.
For instance, White argued that an electrical engineering degree is much more beneficial to Mississippi’s economy than an art degree, and therefore ought to be treated as such in terms of the money it receives from the state.
It’s time to stop investing in college degrees that aren’t worth anything and put our money into degrees that can supercharge Mississippi’s economy.
We’re working on an important report about how the state spends money on colleges/universities right now.
It’ll come out soon,…
— Shad White (@shadwhite) September 12, 2023
The state auditor was promptly met with opposition, with some commenters questioning whether White has the authority to determine the value of one major over another. Others say the upcoming report the auditor plans to release on the matter does not fall under the scope of his job title.
It’s not up to the government to dictate what educational field has value. Are you going to do away with music/literature because the musicians/writers don’t make what doctors make? Keep your nose out of choice and the free market. Worry about theft and graft by your pals
— Frank Dungan (@FrankDungan1960) September 12, 2023
Earning potential is one of the worst metrics I can imagine for shaping education. But then, this isn’t about educating all the people of Mississippi or meeting the wide-ranging needs of the state.
— Steve Price (@Steve_R_Price) September 12, 2023
White doubled down on his comments during a Monday appearance on The Gallo Show, asserting that part of his job is to investigate any public expenditure that may not be in the best financial interest of those paying taxes.
“It involves the expenditure of taxpayer dollars and what is wise and what is not,” White said. “Since the mid [1990s] the state auditor’s office has had the ability to do analysis of how we spend money and report back to the taxpayers where the money is going and whether or not that seems to be yielding any return on investment for the taxpayers.”
In another post on the social media platform, the auditor referenced a specific course he deemed unnecessary for one to pursue a college degree in. Critics of White’s viewpoint expressed their woes, with one journalist even calling out the state leader in a foreign language.
Look, you love German literature? Neat. Go to the library and read your heart out. You don’t need a degree in it.
And you don’t need Mississippi taxpayers to help pay for your degree in it.
We should spend taxpayer money on the majors that fit Mississippi’s economy.
— Shad White (@shadwhite) September 13, 2023
Ich fühle mich aber sehr betroffen, Herr Auditor. Ich habe Deutsch studiert, dann bin ich in Mississippi geblieben und habe seit 1989 gearbeitet und Steuer bezahlt. Ich glaube nicht, dass so einer Bildung überflüssig ist. https://t.co/BLWA5GcgPs
— Emily Wagster Pettus (@EWagsterPettus) September 13, 2023
Someone needs to understand German literature so we can better understand where your party is leading us
— Jimbly X. Hoosgow (@MrBadTakes) September 13, 2023
The only degrees allowed in Mississippi should be Elvis Studies, Ozempic and Duck Hunting.
— 𝑰 ❤️𝑱𝒂𝒎𝒃𝒂 𝑱𝒖𝒊𝒄𝒆 (@mhprvpmvp) September 13, 2023
As the interview continued, White encouraged Mississippians to pursue any passions that they may have. However, he does not find tax dollars a necessary avenue to fund hobbies or interests he deems have little to no positive economic impact.
“William Faulkner did not have a degree in English, and yet he wrote masterworks. Jimmy Buffett did not have a degree in music, but he’s a great musician. Marshall Ramsey’s a great cartoonist and he doesn’t have a degree in cartooning or art,” White said. “These are folks who have made a living pursuing their passion. You don’t have to major in that thing. You can go get a slightly more practical skill and then pursue your passion in your own time. A lot of times, that works out a little bit better.”
In FY 2023, the state appropriated a total of $485,375,759 to public colleges and universities.
The state auditor’s study on how Mississippi spends money on colleges and universities will be released on Wednesday at an unspecified time.
Watch the full interview with White below.