Tracking Mississippi’s Progress in Fulfilling Its Commitment Under the Settlement of the Ayers Higher Education Desegregation Case

In 2002 the state of Mississippi agreed to a $503 million settlement of litigation initiated by Jake Ayers Jr. in 1975 that challenged the state’s persisting racially segregated higher education system. Under the agreement in the Ayers case, the state was to provide $246 million to the state’s three historically black colleges and universities for the improvement of academic programs. Another $75 million was allocated for facility improvements at the three universities. These state appropriations to the black colleges are expected to be completed by 2021.

The state also set aside an endowment that the black universities could tap into only when they were able to achieve total enrollments where nonblacks made up at least 10 percent of the student body for three consecutive years. Also, the state was supposed to oversee $35 million in fundraising for private contributions to the endowment for the three schools.

A recent report from the Mississippi Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Committee finds that Mississippi has met its obligations in making payments to the three schools under the Ayers agreement. But almost nothing has been done to build the private endowment. The fund, which was hoped to have had $35 million in contributions, has a balance of only $1 million.

In addition, only one of the three historically black schools has met the requirement for attracting nonblack enrollments of 10 percent or more. Alcorn State University, through extensive recruitment of foreign students, was able to achieve the enrollment threshold. Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University have been unable to achieve the goal that would allow them access to the endowment funds.

The full report of the Mississippi PEER committee can be downloaded by clicking here.