HBCU cornerstone, Morris Brown College fights for accreditation

HBCU cornerstone, Morris Brown College alumni and homecoming 2019 friends attend worship at New Birth Missionary Baptist

Representatives for Morris Brown College announced Wednesday that its application for accreditation has been approved by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

The designation means the 128-year-old institution will be eligible to apply for Federal Financial Aid Funding, clearing the way for current and future applicants to participate in student aid programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education. When MBC, located in the prestigious Atlanta University Center, lost its national accreditation in April of 2003 for financial malfeasance, college administrators and faculty undeterred by the change in status continued to operate under extreme conditions.

“We went from 2,700 students to 70 students overnight, when we lost our accreditation,” said MBC’s interim president, Dr. Kevin E. James, regarding the chain of financial missteps and mismanagement that would ultimately launch officials into a Herculean effort to restore accreditation and increase enrollment.

“Over the next three to five years we plan to enroll 400 students. … But I anticipate, many more than that because Morris Brown as a college, is a trailblazer regarding who we are as a historical institution of record,” James explained. “Once we get accreditation, I foresee the doors opening to a flood of incoming students.”

Morris Brown’s 2020 Strategic plan projects that a significant number of the school’s incoming students, will be virtual students participating in online learning programs. “This semester we began our online programs and we’re maximizing our use of technology to grow a vibrant online [learning community]. That will help us immensely,” said James.

During the school’s lean years, college officials found themselves in an unenviable position and ultimately had to sell parcels of the campus and liquidate assets, including dormitories and iconic instruction halls built by black workers at the first college for Blacks in Georgia, and where W.E.B Dubois taught classes.

James and MBC’s board of trustees are confident that they will secure housing for the more than 400 additional students who will join their numbers when the doors open for the freshmen Class of 2024.

“We are in partnership with the Interdenominational Theological Center, which is right next door to provide additional housing for students,” explained interim president James. “Morris Brown College is ready to reengage and position itself and fulfill its obligation as an accredited innovative institution, ready to make a difference for all that enter the doors of this ‘historic haven for hungry souls.’”

In a city rich with HBCUs and Black academia, the school built by Blacks and touted for more than a century as a premier institution for coeducational liberal arts disciplines has been struggling with support issues.

“There are two organizational [sectors] which have poured into building the Black middle-class, HBCU’s and churches, so we welcome the opportunity to partner with all churches to build financially and prove to the accrediting agency that we are financially feasible,” James explained.

There are only three college degree programs now, catering to less than 50 faithful scholars and a scaled-down faculty, but there is undeniable history and academic tradition here and that deserves preserving.

“As so many alumni and celebrants have expressed … Morris Brown changed lives, profoundly and forever,” said Greg Jackson (’81), president of Prestige Automotive in Detroit. “I honestly don’t know where I would be right now if it weren’t for Morris Brown,” he continued. “So, if we want to carry that mission and the good works of the school forward, supporting Morris Brown is a no-brainer,” he said noting, “time is of the essence.”

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