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Mississippi Center for Public Policy Announces Statewide Audit of Higher Education

By Julia Peoples
Hottytoddy.com intern

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy, in partnership with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is conducting its inaugural audit on higher education which will conclude by Thanksgiving. 

According to executives at the Center, the audit reviews “governance, financial stewardship, historic literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas, and accreditation at each of the eight public institutions of higher learning.”

The audit began earlier this year, and the results should be released publicly in January along with recommendations to improve the higher education system.

Since its founding, ACTA has advised multiple states on issues regarding higher education, working with trustees and policymakers to promote academic freedom, academic excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.

Jon Pritchett, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, said the partnership with ACTA was the result of constituent complaints.

“Since I’ve joined the Center here in Mississippi, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from alumni, students and professors that were generally unhappy with the overall environment of higher education,” Pritchett said. “We didn’t hear anything specific from everyone – there were a lot of concerns from intellectual rigor, to governance, cost-effectiveness, freedom on campus…so many issues.”

An independent comprehensive audit such as this has never been conducted in Mississippi.

“We thought this would be valuable, useful, and that people would be interested,” Pritchett said. “ACTA is a well-established organization. Universities volunteer to participate in these audits because the people in charge are well known and well respected.”

The audit will include a comprehensive report as well as policy suggestions to improve the higher education system in Mississippi.

“We want to point out weaknesses and strengths, then go about how we can reform and improve the process. We want to put forward solutions to the problems,” Pritchett said.

Those at the Center felt they should announce this ongoing audit following the end of the Chancellor search at Ole Miss and the controversy surrounding Glenn Boyce.

“I suspect governance will be one area that people are extremely interested in due to recent events,” Pritchett said. “We don’t know what the results will be, that’s the fun thing about it. We’re waiting on the experts. We’re anxious to see how we match up to other states that way we can see what needs to change.”

UM Provost Noel Wilkin said he embraces the fact Ole Miss is public institution that is used to sharing financial information and information about how the institution operates.

“In fact, we regularly report data about our institution to agencies outside of the university, including the Mississippi legislature,” he said. “Of course, everyday our faculty and staff consider how to provide the best education and opportunities to our students at an affordable price, and we hope that this will be reflected in the results of the audit.”

The Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning established an Office of Internal Audit in 2014, but its office ensures “acceptable policies and procedures are being followed, legislative requirements and established standards are being met, resources are being used efficiently and economically, planned missions are accomplished effectively, and the objectives of higher education are being achieved.”

Vijay Patel serves as the IHL’s Chief Audit Executive, and the types of activities conducted by his office include operational audits, financial audits, advisory and consulting engagements, investigations, information systems audits, and compliance audits. None of these results are released publicly.

In ACTA’s 2019 report on general education and college curriculum, the University of Mississippi scored a B on the “What Will They Learn?®” grading scale because of a failure to meet the level of history and economics classes required.

In fact, seven of the eight public institutions audited earned a B, and Ole Miss was the only one who only lacked two of the required subjects. The other schools also lacked the required foreign language aspects. Alcorn earned a C, lacking all of the above and literature courses.

Data such as this, along with insight from alumni and trustees that have been in the career field allows ACTA to advise colleges on how to attract more students, keep those students, and best prepare those students when they graduate.

The full, comprehensive report on higher education in Mississippi provided by ACTA is set to be released in January. Follow Hottytoddy.com’s coverage for an up-to-date look at those results. 

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