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The only surprise is in the details of the university mergers

November 16th, 2009

I think, at some level, no one was shocked at Gov. Barbour Monday when he said the state should consider merging some of its universities to save money.

Barbour said Mississippi University for Women should merge with nearby Mississippi State University and that Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University be merged into Jackson State University.

Barbour said none of the campuses would close but the proposed mergers would save money by reducing the number of administrative jobs.

The proposed change would leave Mississippi with five public universities rather than the current eight.

Barbour’s consolidation proposal would have to be approved by lawmakers. It is part of his suggested budget for the fiscal year that begins next July 1.

Having said all of that, the basic question is how is this going to get done, or more appropriately, will this get done?

University consolidation has been a topic for nearly 30 years, but this is the first time it has gotten the vote of the highest office in the state.

The first surprise in the announcement is Alcorn State. It is a land grant university and Barbour admitted that merging it with Jackson State might have some road blocks.

The second is that a combination of Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn would be merged with Jackson State. Certainly, as I write this, folks are lining up to consider the racial implications of, what amounts to, closing two historically black universities.

I don’t think anyone is surprised at the mention of merging MUW in with Mississippi State. Just from a geographic standpoint, the idea has merit. The schools are 20 miles away from each other and MUW has had a problem with declining enrollment for more than 20 years.

Similarly, MVSU and Alcorn have lost substantial numbers in enrollment in recent years, which, I am sure, is part of the reason Barbour chose them.

Barbour basically shrugged his shoulders and gave Mississippians an opportunity to come up with a better idea during his press conference.

I am sure there will be lots of screaming and wailing in Columbus (MUW), Lorman (Alcorn) and Itta Bena (MVSU) claiming to have better ideas.

The new few months will be very interesting.

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