Sunday, January 31, 2010

Update on Proposed Mississippi Mergers

The discussions on merger proposals in Mississippi continue to get significant press, while prospects for the mergers taking place remain slim. Options on the table, as proposed by Governor Haley Barbour, include merging Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State into Jackson State University, and merging Mississippi University for Women into Mississippi State University. The impetus for the mergers stems from a significant state budget shortfall and a desire for greater efficiencies among the state universities. Leading state legislators have called the proposals 'dead on arrival' and suggested that no mergers will occur. The latest proposal is by Jackson State President Ronald Mason, Jr. who developed an idea to merge Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State into a new "Jacobs State University." Mason has received quite a bit of negative response on the idea from his constituents and legislators alike.

While the proposed mergers clearly have racial undertones with the HBCUs, the need or lack thereof for HBCUs is not the central question. Rather, budget issues have forced these discussions, and for that reason, the budgetary debate should continue to be foremost in the minds of legislators. Some Mississippi politicians have suggested that the state can and should support eight public colleges and universities, and they simply should be funded at an appropriate level. These decisions are proving to be difficult ones right now in legislatures all around the country.

Recent articles on the subject are listed below.