State Leaders in Mississippi See No Need to Close or Merge Public HBCUs

Alfred Rankins Jr., the first African American to lead the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Education, has gone on record as opposing any mergers of the state’s historically Black universities into predominately White institutions. Some in the state have called for mergers to save costs. But Dr. Rankin said recently, “I don’t think my board supports it. And I don’t thinks there an appetite through the legislature to do. There’s only one body that has constitutional authority to open a university, close a university, merge or consolidate a university. And, that’s the state legislature. Regardless of our funding woes are, closing a university is the last thing we should do.”

In 2001, a settlement was reached in the Ayers litigation which had been ongoing for 26 years. The $500 million settlement provided funds for construction projects and for the creation of academic programs at Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, and Mississippi Valley State University.

Now the Ayers funding is beginning to decrease and will be totally phased out by 2022. Dr. Rankin has pledged to find ways to help the three state-operated HBCUs. “I’m working hard with those three presidents in trying to help them get support for additional funding,” Dr. Rankin said.

Dr. Rankin became commissioner of higher education on July 1. He is the former president of Alcorn State University and served as acting president of Mississippi Valley State University.

Dr. Rankins is a native of Greenville, Mississippi. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Alcorn State. Dr. Rankins earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in weed science from Mississippi State University.

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