ATLANTA — A historically Black college that barely skirted death during 20 years without accreditation said Tuesday that it has regained that seal of approval.
Atlanta’s Morris Brown College said the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools has voted to make the Methodist-sponsored institution a full candidate for accreditation.
The move means Morris Brown can offer federal financial aid for the first time since 2002, when federal administrators cut off the spigot as the college wallowed in debt and was being investigated. The former president and financial aid director each pleaded guilty to embezzling money because they diverted federal funds to pay for college expenses.
President Kevin James said the college will apply for permission to begin offering aid as soon as possible.
“We intend on making history as the first HBCU to regain its status after a twenty-year hiatus,” James said in a statement. “Without the resilience, support, and prayers from the board of trustees, African Methodist Episcopal church, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community, we would not be here.”
Earlier this year, Morris Brown announced that an investor would convert existing college buildings into a Hilton-branded hotel, investing $30 million. Construction is expected to begin later this year on the hotel, which is supposed to provide hospitality management training for students.
James said the school is offering other new programs meant to appeal to current students, including esports performance, global management and applied leadership.
Established in 1881, Morris Brown lost accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2002, permanently blocking students’ access to federal financial aid. The school filed for bankruptcy in 2012 to prevent foreclosure of its campus.
Without aid, enrolment plummeted from 2,500 to about 50 students. The school has been kept alive by donations from alumni, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and individual churches, but sold much of its property west of downtown Atlanta to settle debts.
Morris Brown left the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically Black institutions, after losing accreditation. The other members of that group include Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Accreditation is meant to be a basic guarantee that a school provides an adequate education. Many historically Black institutions have lost accreditation over the years because of a lack of financial resources. Virginia-based TRACS has emerged as an alternative accreditor for some historically Black schools, including Augusta’s Paine College.
Jeff Amy, The Associated Press