- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

ATLANTA

The Greek quadrangle at Morris Brown College was bustling again on a recent afternoon, abuzz with young people laughing and socializing among the grass and oak trees.

This idyllic image of college life was an illusion: A production crew was filming a scene for a movie on the campus.

The scene was ironic for this 125-year-old historically black school, which students from nearby colleges for years called “MBC: Make Believe College.”

Four years ago, the school was nearly reduced to just a footnote in black history after financial mismanagement revealed a $25 million debt and an embezzlement scheme masterminded by the school’s president, Dolores Cross, and financial aid director, Parvesh Singh, who admitted in court that they embezzled federal funds to cover the college’s expenses.

Since 2002, Morris Brown has operated as a shadow of its former self. Its enrollment dropped from about 3,000 students to a low of 66 this year.

Morris Brown was lagging in funding, fundraising and status in November 1998 when Cross became its president. She increased the annual payroll by $6 million and operating costs by nearly $9 million.

She was convicted of funneling 1,800 federal grants and loans worth $3.4 million into the school’s coffers in the names of about 600 students who registered for classes they never attended.

Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, said the consequences have been devastating.

“I don’t know of any other instance where an executive in higher education at one of our institutions has pleaded guilty to a federal crime,” Mr. Lomax said. Morris Brown was dismissed from the 39-member fund when the accusations surfaced in 2002.

“It’s very difficult to regain accreditation. Those students are no longer eligible, if they stay, to receive federal funds. They’ve lost the ability to attract students,” he said. “I’m not going to predict whether they will or won’t be able to recover, but this is a very challenging situation for Morris Brown.”

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