Morris Brown College Earns New Accreditation In Hopes Of Enrolling More Students

The new chapter in the HBCU’s story comes after a 20-year journey of rebuilding and rebranding.

Morris Brown College has reportedly received accreditation after a two-decade journey that the school’s leaders hope will help them enroll more students after losing so many as a result of its troubles.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Virginia-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools voted Tuesday (April 26) to grant Morris Brown full accreditation status, which means its students can apply for federal loans and Pell grants. Students attending a school without accreditation cannot receive federal financial aid.

“Morris Brown College just made history,” Morris Brown’s President Dr. Kevin James told the AJC in a telephone interview. “We’re excited about it. A lot of people had written us off. But due to a lot of hard work and dedication, we were able to regain our accreditation.”

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Morris Brown was founded in 1881 by the AME Church and was long seen as an HBCU institution much the same as Howard, Morehouse, Spelman or Hampton. It has a long list of notable alumni ranging from Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr., to civil rights hero Hosea Williams, to comedian and actress Sommore.

But it ran into financial troubles over the years and by the 2000s, at least 80 percent of its student body of 2,500 was reportedly receiving financial aid of some form. Federal dollars had gone to the school, but were being mismanaged. The administration had allegedly inflated enrollment numbers to attract more funds.

In 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation because of the school’s ballooning debt. In 2001, the school’s president Delores Cross and financial aid director Parvesh Singh were accused of embezzling $3.4 million in federally backed student loans and Pell grants, which prosecutors say was used to pay for $3.3 million in credit debt and other expenses, according to an indictment. Cross and Singh pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five years probation.

Since that time, the school has been attempting to climb out of its troubles.  By the fall of 2007, enrollment had dropped to 72 students and even had its water turned off due to bills not being paid. In 2010, a new president, Stanley Pritchett Sr., had taken over and was facing $28 million in debt. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education reached a deal with Morris Brown to pay $500,000 on its $9.4 million debt and the balance was forgiven. In 2012, the school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, freeing it from millions in debt.

Eventually, more students enrolled in the school and earned accreditation candidacy in 2021 under the leadership of its current president Dr. Kevin James.

TRACS president Timothy Eaton said the college met its requirements for having enough faculty members to teach coursework and “demonstrated a sound fundraising strategy and had some successful fundraising.”

“Morris Brown has been very diligent in doing what we asked them to do during the process,” Eaton said, according to the AJC.

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