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Education Roundup: Risks Remain After MUW Merger Fails, School Funding Debate Ongoing

Mississippi University for Women will remain its own entity for at least another year after the bill to fold it into Mississippi State University failed. But its future—and that of several other universities—could still be in jeopardy after lawmakers advanced legislation to study the feasibility of continuing to operate eight public universities.

Mississippi Sen. Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville and the sponsor of the merger bill, asked lawmakers to nix the idea of the merger and instead create a committee to study the feasibility of the university and Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. MSMS is a residential high school for gifted students that is housed on MUW’s campus. The Senate voted against the amendment effectively killing all parts of the bill.

“The proposed action to merge and rename the university ‘The W at Mississippi State University’ was unexpected, but we are fully committed to ensuring our university’s health and sustainability and its 140-year legacy in the state of Mississippi,” Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller said in an email to alumni on March 7.

A similar bill that House Universities and Colleges Committee Chairman Representative Donnie Scoggin, R-Ellisville, introduced passed the House and went to the Senate for consideration on Feb. 15. House Bill 939 would create the Mississippi University Research Authority.

That bill moved forward in place of a bill authored by Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, that would have closed three of Mississippi’s eight public universities by June 30, 2028. Many feared the bill could specifically target the state’s historically Black universities. Although Polk argued that the state could not continue to financially support eight universities, Scoggin said lawmakers need more information before making a decision.

“I am not for closing any of the colleges at this time without having a whole lot more knowledge,” Scoggin told The Associated Press.

Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg (pictured) introduced a bill that would close three Mississippi universities by June 30, 2028. It died on a Tuesday, March 5, 2024, deadline. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The failed merger bill was the last of a whirlwind of measures surrounding Mississippi University for Women, which

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