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State auditor responds to social media criticism over comments about funding for college majors

Photo courtesy of OSA/Facebook

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.

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.

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.

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.

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