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Reassigning majors

EDUCATION | Mississippi official recommends legislators fund only degrees that benefit the state’s economy

Charles A. Smith/JSU University Communications/Jackson State University via Getty Images

Reassigning majors
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College students at Mississippi’s public universities may soon have fewer majors to choose from if state legislators act on a recent recommendation. State Auditor Shad White said in a mid-September report that degree majors like women’s studies, German language and literature, and African American/black studies don’t adequately prepare students for jobs in Mississippi. Instead of providing funding per student, regardless of degree program, White suggested the state fund specific degree programs that prepare students to fill roles in fields facing worker shortages in Mississippi, such as nursing.

According to White, Mississippi is suffering from brain drain, with nearly half of graduates who earn a degree in Mississippi schools then leaving for work in other states. On social media, the auditor suggested the state stop funding “useless degrees” in “garbage fields.” He argued that some degree programs act as “indoctrination factories.”

“I don’t know why taxpayers should spend the same amount to create an anthropology major who is likely to leave as we do an in-demand agricultural economics major,” he tweeted.

In 2020, only 22.8 percent of Mississippi’s population aged 25 and older held at least a bachelor’s degree, ranking it 49th among the states, according to the Associated Press. Only West Virginia ranked lower. West Virginia University voted on Sept. 15 to ax 28 majors and 143 ­faculty positions to address a $45 ­million budget deficit.

The Mississippi Legislature determines education funding but will likely refer to the state auditor’s report as it determines spending.


Measuring the dad difference

Fathers’ involvement with their children boosts their children’s academic abilities, according to a U.K. government-funded research report published Sept. 20. University of Leeds researchers considered data from about 5,000 two-parent families with children born between 2000 and 2002 and found that 3-year-old children whose fathers read or played with them performed better academically in their first year of school, at about age 5.

Children in their first year of school who read or played with their fathers achieved better scores in assessments, particularly in math, at age 7. Mothers’ engagement with children also carried important benefits, typically raising the child’s social and emotional abilities. The study showed that children could see benefits spending even 10 minutes a day interacting with a father. “It’s absolutely crucial that fathers aren’t treated as an afterthought,” Andrew Gwynne, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, said in a statement. —L.D.

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


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