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State Auditor’s report shows majority of DEI funding used for university salaries

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The State Auditor’s Office has released a report showing that Mississippi public universities spend the majority of funding from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on employee salaries.

According to the report, universities throughout the state reported spending $23.4 million on DEI from July 2019 to June 2023, while self-reported expenditures have increased 47 percent in less than five years.

In 2023 alone, 70 percent of DEI spending was spent on salaries for the initiative’s employees, with nearly $11 million of taxpayer funds going to the program.

“I have real concerns about what DEI staff may be teaching or doing at our taxpayer-funded universities,” State Auditor Shad White stated. “There have also been allegations that DEI staffers are duplicative of other human resources staff and are therefore a waste of money. In light of all this, as a starting point, I thought it was important for taxpayers to know what public universities are spending on DEI.”

White explained that the report showed only a small portion of the funding being spent on scholarships and student aid.

“One unfortunate statistic was the amount of money spent on DEI salaries and the lack of money spent on scholarships,” White said. “If the real goal of DEI was to increase diversity at the universities, one would think more money would be going to scholarships for poor students instead of adults’ paychecks.”

Campus diversity initiatives include sexual assault awareness and prevention programs, music festivals, study abroad programs, student health and wellness programs, Veterans Day Recognition programs, recruitment and retention of non-Black students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and federally funded programs.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) has since added that “spending on diversity programs is less than one percent of appropriations received from the state and the system budget.”

“Our public universities have diverse student bodies and an obligation to support them,” the IHL said. “Providing programs to retain students so they can graduate and join the workforce is a worthy investment that strengthens our universities and our state.”

The IHL governs the following universities:

  • Alcorn State University
  • Delta State University
  • Jackson State University
  • Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine
  • Mississippi University for Women
  • Mississippi Valley State University
  • The University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • The University of Southern Mississippi.

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