- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 11, 2020

ATLANTA (AP) - A historically Black college which has barely survived 20 years without accreditation says it’s close to getting back that seal of approval.

Atlanta’s Morris Brown College said Wednesday that its application with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools has been approved and that the group could vote in April to make the Methodist-sponsored institution a full candidate for accreditation.

Such a move would allow Morris Brown to offer federal financial aid for the first time since 2002, when federal administrators cut off the money 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.

Established in 1881, Morris Brown lost accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools later that year, permanently blocking students’ access to federal financial aid. The school filed for bankruptcy in 2012 to prevent foreclosure of its campus.

Without aid, enrollment plummeted from 2,500 to 53 students today. The school has been kept alive by donations from alumni, the sponsoring 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.

President Kevin James told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the college would apply for permission to begin offering aid again as soon as the association votes on candidacy. An accrediting committee will visit the campus in January in advance of the decision, and could instruct Morris Brown to make additional changes.

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.

“This is history in the making,” James said in a statement. “Morris Brown intends to become the first HBCU to earn its accreditation back twenty years after losing it.”

He said the school if offering new programs including e-sports performance, hospitality management and global management and applied leadership.

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