Morris Brown College makes next step towards accreditation

Nearly two decades after losing its accreditation because of financial aid fraud, Morris Brown College has made a significant step to regaining it.

The historically black college announced Wednesday that its application for accreditation was approved by the federally recognized Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

The next step will come in January of 2021 when representatives from the association will visit the campus, officials said.

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The TRACS will consider the school for accreditation in April of 2021.

The school's accreditation was revoked by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in late 2002 based on fiscal management and debt. Because Morris Brown is not accredited, students are unable to receive federal loans.

"Morris Brown intends to become the first HBCU to earn its accreditation back 20 years after losing it," Morris Brown President Kevin James said. "When Morris Brown achieves candidacy status, hopefully by April 2021, it will give the college all the rights of a fully accredited college, which allows students to receive federal financial aid. Additionally, student degrees will be recognized by other schools and/or employers."

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"We lost our accreditation in 2002 due to some financial mismanagement," the school's president, Dr. Kevin James said.

Accreditation is viewed as a basic guarantee that a school provides an adequate education. Without it, students cannot receive federal financial assistance.

"We get a lot of applications from students who are interested in attending Morris Brown, but once they find out we’re unaccredited they go elsewhere because unaccredited institutions are not eligible for financial aid.

Now that Morris Brown College has received initial approval, school leaders are crafting what’s called a self-study.

"That literally is like writing a book on ourselves regarding a narrative of how we meet those requirements," he said.

The board will assess what the school said it has to offer and make a final decision in April 2021.

"We anticipate students wanting to be a part of the hard reset of history, of the restoration class, that provides a lot of history of going down in the books of being part of Morris Brown college restoration class," James said.

Morris Brown College signage in 2015 in Atlanta.

Classes are entirely virtual right now because of the pandemic and President James said students won’t return to the classroom until the summer or fall of 2021. He said he’s optimistic by that time, students will be eligible for federal financial aid.

Founded in 1881, Morris Brown’s enrollment was down from a peak of 2,700 to 42 students in 2019. James, who has been head of the school since 2019, said fundraising is key to the college’s plans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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