Morris Brown College completes 20-year journey to accreditation

Morris Brown College was the first institution of higher education in Georgia created by Black people for Black students. AJC FILE PHOTO.

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Morris Brown College was the first institution of higher education in Georgia created by Black people for Black students. AJC FILE PHOTO.

Morris Brown College has received its accreditation, its biggest step in a two decades-long journey that its leaders hope will help the school to enroll more students.

The Virginia-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools voted Tuesday to grant Morris Brown full accreditation status, meaning its students can apply for federal loans and Pell grants, the association confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Students attending a school without accreditation cannot receive federal financial aid.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation in 2002 because of the school’s ballooning debt.

“Morris Brown College just made history,” James said 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.”

The college has planned a news conference Thursday to formally announce the reaccreditation.

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April 21, 2021 Atlanta - Morris Brown's president Dr. Kevin E. James at Morris Brown College on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

April 21, 2021 Atlanta - Morris Brown's president Dr. Kevin E. James at Morris Brown College on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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April 21, 2021 Atlanta - Morris Brown's president Dr. Kevin E. James at Morris Brown College on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

TRACS president Timothy Eaton said in a telephone interview the college met its requirements for having enough faculty members to teach coursework. Eaton said Morris Brown also “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.

The association will conduct annual reviews of Morris Brown’s finances and audits as part of the post-accreditation process, Eaton said.

Morris Brown was founded in 1881 by the Georgia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and named for one of its bishops. It was the first institution of higher education in Georgia created by Black people for Black students.

The college’s debt problems exposed other problems. Its president and financial aid director were put on probation after pleading guilty to embezzlement charges. Morris Brown’s enrollment plummeted from about 2,500 students before the revocation to just a few dozen several years later. The college couldn’t pay its water bills.

By 2012, Morris Brown filed for bankruptcy.

ExploreThe AJC’s past coverage of efforts by Morris Brown College to regain accreditation

The college continued to operate to the bewilderment of some. Morris Brown had about 50 students last year.

Morris Brown leaders sought accreditation from TRACS, which approved reaccreditation to another HBCU in Georgia — Paine College in Augusta. James called the process “the hard reset.”

It currently offers a handful of bachelor’s degrees in hospitality management, music and psychology. It also offers certificates in business entrepreneurship, eSports and nonprofit management.

Staff writer Shelia Poole contributed to this article.