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Meet The Man Who Recently Tried to Shutdown 3 HBCUs in Mississippi

Meet The Man Who Recently Tried to Shutdown 3 HBCUs in Mississippi
Posted By: Sofía Montiel on March 01, 2024

Senator John A. Polk told Mississippi Today on Wednesday that he just wanted to 'start a conversation.'

Sen. John Polk, the lawmaker behind a controversial bill to close three public universities in Mississippi says the bill will “likely die in the Senate due public outcry and politics.” Polk told Mississippi Today that he just wanted to start a conversation regarding ‘decreased student enrollment at the state’s universities’ when he filed Senate Bill 2726, which would require the governing board of Mississippi’s eight public universities to close three by 2028.

The bill did in fact, incite a conversation, — inciting a petition to stop the bill and becoming a chief concern among the HBCU community and advocates who strongly felt the bill could lead to the closure of three HBCUs Mississippi Valley State University, Alcorn State University, and Jackson State University directly stated in the bill.


Polk said the bill would save $50-$80 million if three colleges were to close. And based on enrollment, the most vulnerable of the mentioned HBCUs is Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.

However, Senator Polk says the bill is not aim directly at HBCUs. “If I were trying to close an HBCU, I would’ve put that in the bill,” Polk said.

A number of solutions have been offered including a bill introduced by Sen. Nicole Boyd, R-Oxford, the chair of the Senate Colleges and Universities Committee, that would create a legislative taskforce to study how the “enrollment cliff” will impact the state’s higher education system.

However, Polk’s bill is the first to propose the state close universities.



“Sometimes you just have to pull the Band-Aid off the wound,” Polk said. “Until I introduced this bill, no one was talking about that.”

If the bill were to pass into law, the State Institutions Board of Trustees will have to consider several factors such as enrollment, economic impact, and any other roles the institution serves the state and its citizens to determine closures.

A report from The United Negro College Fund highlights the positive economic impact of Mississippi’s HBCUs, citing that the three HBCUs mentioned produces over $600 million in total economic impact. This estimate includes direct spending by HBCUs on faculty, employees, academic programs and operations and by students attending the institutions, –as well as the follow-on effects of that spending.

Among the bill’s most vulnerable HBCU, Mississippi Valley State University generates $83 million in total economic impact. Every dollar spent by Mississippi Valley State University and its students produces positive economic benefits, ‘generating $1.12 in initial and subsequent spending’ for its local and regional economies, according to the UNCF report.

Hillman Frazier, a state senator who has served in the legislature for over 40 years and is an alumnus of Jackson State, told HuffPost Journalist Phil Lewis, that closure bills like this one are ‘not unique.’ “I am a member of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee and can assure you that the present bill will not be called up for consideration,” he told What I’m Reading.

“There is no widespread appetite to close any of the eight institutions of higher learning in the State of Mississippi.”

SOURCE HBCU Buzz
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