Better Days: How Morris Brown Restored Accreditation, Overcame Bankruptcy
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Better Days: How Morris Brown Restored Accreditation, Overcame Bankruptcy

(Image: Atlanta Tribune)

Morris Brown President Dr. Kevin James lifted a heavy load to overcome a 20-year financial scandal that cost the HBCU $35 million in bankruptcy. James is making plans for the future as he repairs the school’s accreditation and reputation.

Five students are set to graduate this semester from the liberal arts college in Atlanta. The class will be the first accredited graduating class since 2003. Walter Jordan, a 51-year-old business management student, shared,

“I will be one of the first graduating class from the new accredited Morris Brown College.”

“I was very worried and very concerned because I know no school that had ever lost its accreditation, especially after a 20-year hiatus and was able to regain it.”

Morris Brown students who graduated within the 20-year gap were not so lucky. Their degrees remain unaccredited, which means employers may view their degrees as illegitimate. Other institutions might also refuse to accept college credits. Worst of all, students are not eligible to receive federal aid to pay for college expenses.

James announced the college is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. According to Atlanta Black Star, the college president said, “We lost our accreditation due to some financial mismanagement, but it’s a new day, and we’re not looking to the past; we’re looking to the future.”  

The president plans for better days after the long hiatus for the Atlanta-based HBCU. Enrollment dropped from an average of 2,000 students to currently 70. College leadership numbers also suffered.

Present day, the college has four full-time faculty and 15 staff members. This results in a student-to-faculty ratio of about 17 to one. James lamented, “I must admit it was a very heavy lift, $35 million dollar bankruptcy, we lost our land, we lost a lot of our students, but with the help of God, we’ve been able to restore this institution under this administration and we’re very excited to have done it.”

Morris Brown lost accreditation after former college President Delores Cross and former Financial Aid Director Parvesh Singh pleaded guilty to financial fraud. Both leaders were sentenced to probation for five years for partaking in blanket enrollment. Beginning in the fall of 1999, Cross and Singh forged the number of total students enrolled at Morris Brown. The two counted “registered” students as “enrolled” students. However, not all students classified as “enrolled” attended classes.

All enrolled students must attend classes for a college or university to receive federal financial aid funds. The Department of Education disclosed that Morris Brown received between $15 million and $25 million each year. Before the college came under fire for fraud, 90% of its students received federal aid.

James, Morris Brown’s 19th president, has served for three years. He plans for better days for the HBCU, saying, “If not for HBCUs, many of us would not be here today.”