Morris Brown’s next challenges: Fundraising, enrolling more students

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Several hundred Morris Brown College alumni, faculty, students and supporters gathered on campus Thursday to celebrate a two-decades long journey to accreditation after it was revoked in 2002.

Now, several speakers said, come critical tasks, such as enrolling more students and raising money.

“If we leave here with just glorious words, and don’t invest in an institution that is producing and preparing leaders like these behind me, we will just have made a lot of noise for no reason,” radio broadcaster Derrick Boazman, a 1990 graduate, said in a fundraising appeal to the crowd.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

The private, historically Black college had about $3.1 million in assets and spent about $1.25 million in operating expenses in a 12-month stretch, according to federal tax forms filed in March 2021. By contrast, Atlanta’s three other undergraduate HBCUs have each received one-time philanthropic gifts since 2020 ranging from $15 million to $40 million.

In leaner times, money was so tight at the college that some faculty members weren’t paid on schedule, Morris Brown leaders said.

Still, the college stayed open. Thursday’s gathering, billed as a news conference, was more like a church revival. Several speakers made biblical references describing the college’s path to accreditation. “Resurrection” was a word frequently used to describe what’s happened.

“Morris Brown College is back and we can’t wait to move forward,” Kevin James, the college’s president since 2019, said to cheers.

The Decatur-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation in December 2002 because of the school’s ballooning debt. The college’s then-president and financial aid director were put on probation after pleading guilty to embezzlement charges. Morris Brown filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

In March 2019, the college sought accreditation from the Virginia-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. On Tuesday, the association approved full accreditation. Students at unaccredited colleges cannot receive federal financial aid.

TRACS has become a lifeline for several historically Black colleges and universities in recent years. Morris Brown is the fourth HBCU to be accredited by TRACS, which has 92 members. TRACS, founded in 1991, is one of about three dozen federally-approved accreditation agencies nationwide.

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

“They have a great opportunity, yet it is to be determined if they can build their student body,” said Timothy Eaton, the association’s president. “That’s the next part of their journey.”

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Morris Brown had 70 students this school year. Its five students graduating this semester will receive accredited degrees, James, told reporters. James said he had no specific enrollment goals for next year, but the college is trying to bring in more students through eSports and online programs.

The Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, challenged the crowd to recruit more students. He brought a young man Thursday to enroll at the college this fall.

“We’ve got an Herculean responsibility to fill classrooms and our desks with students,” Bryant said.

About Morris Brown College

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 has about 70 students.

Morris Brown 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. It’s tuition is $4,250 a semester.

Morris Brown is one of 10 accredited historically Black colleges and universities in Georgia. Alabama leads the nation with 13. North Carolina has 10.