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Spend Taxpayer Money on Majors that...

Spend Taxpayer Money on Majors that Matter

By: Shad White - September 26, 2023

State Auditor Shad White (Photo from MS OSA Facebook)

State Auditor Shad White has called for tax money to be used on college degrees that fit Mississippi’s economy. White hits back at columnist Bill Crawford’s critique of the idea.

If you looked online last week, you’d probably see me being called “the worst of society,” an “anti-intellectual,” and a “white supremacist.” 

What caused the big stir? My team and I published a report saying the state should spend taxpayer money on the college majors that actually advance Mississippi’s economy and stop spending taxpayer money on the degrees that don’t. 

That’s it. 

But that idea set off a firestorm on social media. Aside from the foolishness online, though, liberal columnist Bill Crawford took the prize for the most confusing interpretation of our analysis. Bill claimed that Shad White “foolishly wants government to tell university students what they can and cannot major in.” 

That’s right, folks. I will personally come to your house and tell your child what they can study. You’re welcome.

The truth, of course, is that I simply called for tax money to be used on college degrees that fit Mississippi’s economy. The reason should be obvious: majors that prepare students for a job here make it more likely the student might stay here. More than 60% of anthropology majors, for instance, leave Mississippi, because there simply aren’t many Mississippi anthropology jobs. Nurses, on the other hand, tend to stay and make good money. And pay taxes. And contribute back to the community. These kinds of majors—which include plenty of humanities and arts programs—are where we should be investing tax dollars. 

No one is going to tell Bill he can’t major in gender studies. You want to spend your tuition dollars learning there are 58 genders? Have at it. I’m not arguing for programs to be cancelled. Most public universities only receive a portion of their budget from taxpayers, so colleges can use their privately raised funds on gender studies programs if they like. I’m saying a taxpaying plumber shouldn’t have to pay for Bill’s deep exploration of “gender and sexuality” as a part of the “queer studies” required curriculum (taken from a Mississippi gender studies program website). 

I made these arguments plain as day in a piece I wrote for The Wall Street Journal. But watching Bill Crawford decipher plain statements is like watching President Biden squint at a teleprompter: you start to wonder if the fella can still read.

Or it’s par for the course for liberals these days. They tend to take a reasonable argument made by a conservative and then pretend the conservative said something they did not. You’re pro-life, Mr. Shad? Sounds like you want to walk into every woman’s bathroom and take her birth control away. You want to cut waste from government, Mr. White? You probably want to cut my grandmother’s favorite program and then push her off a cliff. Shad, you think there should be tougher sentences for violent criminals? Well, you’re a racist who just wants to lock up every young man with a dime bag.

Bill also ignored an important point my team made: students need to think hard about what they’re majoring in. Shad is not going to come to your dorm room and slap the German literature book out of your hand. But you may want to consider how many jobs there are in German literature before you take out debt to pay for that degree. Student debt in the U.S. has doubled in the last 20 years in part because people are leaving universities with some degrees that don’t prepare them to repay the loan. Parents should talk to their children about whether their degree will be worth it. And taxpayers should think about whether the degree will be worth it, too, before they help finance it.

As your State Auditor, I have a responsibility to tell you how your money—especially when it’s hundreds of millions of dollars, as with higher ed—is being spent. And I will always point out when we don’t get much of a return on our investment. Right now, you’re pouring money into degree programs taught by experts in urban stand-up comedy, courses that focus on big topics like “television, fast food, fashion, theme parks, advertising, malls,” and detailed examinations of “sexuality, the body and hip-hop.” Sound worth it?

About the Author(s)
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Shad White

Shad White was appointed as the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi in July 2018 and won election to the office in 2019. Prior to becoming Auditor, he served as a special prosecutor, winning ethics cases against politicians who broke the law, and earned a certificate in forensic accounting from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. White, a Certified Fraud Examiner, earned degrees from the University of Mississippi, the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and Harvard Law School. He also serves in the military as a Captain in the Mississippi National Guard.