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Morris Brown College faces foreclosure

— For more than a decade, Morris Brown College has clung to life as it struggled academically and financially in the face of growing debt and dwindling support.

Now, one of the country's oldest black colleges, which at times boasted an enrollment of more than 3,000 student, is now down to about 50, and all but dead.

Morris Brown is facing foreclosure next month, after investors called $13 million worth of bonds tied to the college. An auction of assets, including the administration building, is scheduled for Sept. 4.

"This is heartbreaking and not only a sad day in the life of Morris Brown, but in black academia," said former Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman, a 1990 graduate of Morris Brown. "The school is needed now more than ever."

The school is planning to have a prayer vigil on Saturday, where they will 0ffer a plan to move the school forward.

While not going into specifics, Benjamin Harrison, a spokesman for the 6th District African Methodist Episcopal Church, which oversees the school, said officials will talk about reorganizing and restructuring as well as finances.

Calls to Morris Brown President Stanley J. Pritchett were not returned Wednesday, but Harrison acknowledged that while efforts are being made to find money to settle the debt the going is tough.

"There is the need to raise millions of dollars to counteract that deficit," Harrison said. "But if that money is not raised, the school is in jeopardy."

The bonds were issued by the Fulton County Development Authority in 1996, when Atlanta was flush with cash as the Summer Olympics loomed. As security for the bonds, Morris Brown pledged several pieces of property, including the school's administration building.

But Morris Brown, which is mired in debt and receives no federal funds because it is not accredited, is unable to repay the loans.

Morris Brown used the Fulton County Development Authority to finance the debt to get an ultra-low, tax exempt interest rate. The authority only acted as a conduit and taxpayers aren't on the hook, authority attorney Lewis Horne said.

Once one of the key pillars that comprised the Atlanta University Center, Morris Brown College was founded by former slaves to educate the sons and daughters of slaves.

Over the last two decades, while Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University have thrived, Morris Brown withered away.

In 2003, after years of severe financial mismanagement, fraud and debt, the school lost its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the federal funding and academic standing that comes with it. With the loss of accreditation, the United Negro College Fund, also withdrew its financial and other support.

The capper came in 2006, when Dolores Cross, who served as president from 1998 to 2002, pleaded guilty to embezzling federal funds by applying for money on behalf of students without their knowledge or consent. Cross used the money to pay operating costs. She was ordered to pay $13,942 in restitution to the government and was sentenced to five years of probation but avoided prison time.

Former financial aid director Parvesh Singh also pleaded guilty.

Preston W. Williams, chairman of the board of trustees of Morris Brown, is calling for a "National Day of Prayer," and will issue what is being called the school's official response to the notice of foreclosure at an on-campus event at 1 p.m. Saturday John H. Lewis Health & Physical Education Complex.

He is calling on everyone associated with Morris Brown to pray for the school -- and donate money -- to stave off the foreclosure.

Comments

agirl_25 2 years ago

Down to 50 students....did I read that correctly? Fifty students and a staff of how many for the 50 students? Ms. Cross was guilty of embezzling federal funds and ordered to pay back less than $14,000. I bet she embezzled a lot more than that, didn't she. If she was president from 1998 till 2002 she probably embezzled a lot more than what she had to pay back if she spent any time at all applying for money on behalf of students without their knowledge or consent.

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whattheheck 2 years ago

You know, that is life. MB shot itself in the foot over the years as it danced along and now it is time to pay the piper.Whether the govt will let this happen to a "historically black" college in an election year is doubtful since it is not a "historically white" college which would have a sealed fate. MB once had some high standards which may have contributed to its downfall.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

It will never happen this year. I'm sure the Evil Bastard Bankers are responsible for MB's financial woes.

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MRKIA 2 years ago

50 STUDENTS, NO ACCREDITATION, IN FORECLOSURE? SHOULD HAVE PRAYED BEFORE THE MISMANAGEMENT AND FRAUD.

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billybob 2 years ago

And that folks, is what the Doco school system can become. Withered on the vine due to gross mismanagement, incompetence and apathy. But, hey, I'm sure Morris Brown will be fine - they're having a day of prayer. That always works.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

I wonder why some of its distinguished grads were not listed in the article, or were there none? I don't know anything about Boazman....(mentioned in article) who he is or anything he has done but surely there are some MB grads out there someplace. Hate to ask and sound racist...but I have been called it before so what the heck..but is/was MB a diploma mill? Anyone know?

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gotanyfacts 2 years ago

It is always sad to see history fade. But, I would like to see the look on Boazman's face if the reporter had asked him to explain why his alma mater is "needed now more than ever".

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MRKIA 2 years ago

WHERE IS THE BLACK SUPPORT FOR THIS ( A TERM I DISDAIN) HBCU. WHERE IS P.DIDDY, LIL WAYNE, NIKI MINAJ, JAY Z, TYLER PERRY, RUSSELL SIMMONS ECT... BUSY BUYING BLING, FABULOUS HOMES AND MILLIONS IN HIGH END CARS. NOTHING FOR THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT HELPED MAKE THEM GET WHERE THEY ARE. ANY "ONE" OF THEM COULD WRITE A CHECK TO PAY OFF M/B'S DEBT. SUCH IS THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

Well the top 5 are listed as football players and one down the list was Hosea Williams, a civil rights firebrand, now deceased. So I guess the civil rights people are the ones who would have to care about the school and I don't hear Al or Jesse yelling or screaming or whipping out their checkbooks. Ever hear of Alfred Jenkins, Charlie Bivins. Donte Curry, Ezra Johnson or George Atkinson? Those are the top grads.

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Jacob 2 years ago

"after years of severe financial mismanagement, fraud and debt, the school lost its accreditation"

DCSS will have these very words written about it.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

On the subject of schools..... may not mean anything to you, but this is a partial 'M' listing of alumni from Howard University where Murfree says he got his PhD and i don't see his name listed...do you? I see the distinguished author....Toni Morrison... but no Murfree....gasp....did he tell a fib? All you have to do is go to the Howard University Alumni page and look for the list of alumni and see who did or didn't graduate from there. Seems to me if someone got a Doctorate from Howard they would be on the list..huh?

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36x48photo 2 years ago

The AME Church was at one time a organization that ministered, helped and educated many young people of the black community. Today the AME Church is not a church, it is a COMPANY, with its members having a slave mentality, the "BISHOP BOSSES" will punish or demote any minister or member who would dare ask a question or demand knowledge of what is going on. There moto is, you pay your money, but you ask no questions! That's why Morris Brown College is gone!

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