To keep the college afloat, some administrators obtained loans on behalf of students who were unaware that the college had applied for financial aid in their names. One former president pleaded guilty to embezzlement and was sentenced in 2007 to five years’ probation, including a year of home confinement.
Enrollment, which had peaked at 2,700, fell to a few dozen students. The college currently has 53 students, said Kevin James, the college president.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “History was made and this is just the beginning.”
Morris Brown has been working for nearly five years to get to this point. It now has five years to meet all the criteria for accreditation. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education may allow access to federal funding.
Eaton said the college can apply both to enroll students with federal financial aid and to participate in direct federal aid programs, perhaps becoming eligible for a stake in the coronavirus stimulus.
Assuming the federal government gives swift approval, students enrolled this spring would be eligible to use federal aid at the college for the current semester, he said. The next challenge would be achieving enrollment and fundraising growth.
“This is a big step, particularly when you consider the access to the financial resources,” Eaton said, noting that the school has little in common with the institution that it was a generation ago. “Those people are long gone,” he said.
This is the second HBCU in Georgia that has been thrown a lifeline by Eaton’s organization in recent months. In late October, his agency approved the accreditation application of Paine College in Augusta.
Paine and Morris Brown share similar histories. Both were founded in the late 19th century to educate Black students, Morris Brown by the Georgia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1881, and Paine the next year by Methodist church leaders, Black and white, with donations — including pennies from former slaves.