ATLANTA (AP) — Morris Brown College has regained full accreditation after a 20-year journey that its leaders hope will ultimately prompt higher enrollment.
Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools voted Tuesday to grant the liberal arts college full accreditation status, meaning its students can apply for federal loans and Pell grants, the association confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation in 2002 after a former college president and financial aid director were found to be misappropriating federal funds and rising debt.
“Morris Brown College just made history,” President Kevin James said in a telephone interview with the newspaper. “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.”
Morris Brown sought accreditation from TRACS, which also approved reaccreditation to another HBCU in Georgia — Paine College in Augusta.
James, the school’s leader since 2019, called the process “the hard reset.” The historically black college planned Thursday to formally announce the reaccreditation.
TRACS president Timothy Eaton said the college met its requirements for having enough faculty members to teach coursework and the school “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, he 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. It costs about $4,250 a semester to attend the school, James has said.
The school was put in limbo, losing its federal funding in 2002 after financial mismanagement. Enrollment plummeted from about 2,500 students before the revocation to just a few dozen several years later. By 2012, Morris Brown had filed for bankruptcy.
Still, the college continued, enrolling about 50 students last year. 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.
TRACS, a Virginia-based agency, granted the college its candidacy last year.
Maurice Hobson, a civil rights and Atlanta scholar, previously told WXIA-TV that the school’s journey to accreditation is another example of resilience.
“It is going to take new and innovative ways of understanding college education and what Morris Brown College can be than what it’s been in the past,” he said of its leadership and the college’s future.
Hobson added that there are advocates invested in and rooting for the school.
“We all want to see Morris Brown win,” he said. “If Morris Brown wins, then Atlanta ultimately wins.”
There are 107 HBCUs in the U.S. recognized by the Department of Education. Of those, three are closed and two are at risk of losing their accreditation, records show. Morris Brown is no longer one of them.