Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Noteworthy News: Morris Brown Faces Increased Pressure to Solve Financial Crisis, Pay Back Money

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Noteworthy News: Morris Brown Faces Increased Pressure to Solve Financial Crisis, Pay Back Money

Article excerpt

Morris Brown College's financial crisis appears to be growing as recent newspapers report in addition to being $23 million in debt, things are so bad that the cafeteria sometimes runs out of food, computer labs carefully ration paper and laptop computers that cost students $1,500 each never arrived. In addition, the school has now been told that federal funding may be cut if it doesn't repay money it owes the Department of Education.

The 117-year-old private college is accused of using millions in federal money marked for student financial aid to pay the bills. Federal officials may deny additional student aid dollars until Morris Brown repays the money or sets up a repayment plan, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month, citing department officials.

The threat of federal funding cuts comes on the heels of a recently completed accreditation review. A team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools spent three days at the college last month talking to administrators and scrutinizing financial records.

Morris Brown has been on probation with the accrediting agency since December for sloppy bookkeeping and failing to have enough instructors with advanced degrees in some subjects. Members of the association are scheduled to vote on Morris Brown's accreditation in December.

If Morris Brown's accreditation is revoked, the school no longer would be eligible for federal aid. And more than 90 percent of Morris Brown's students rely on financial aid to cover the $10,200-a-year tuition.

Many have blamed the crisis on the school's former president Dr. Dolores Cross and her ambitious efforts to enlarge Morris Brown and raise its profile. Cross has acknowledged using more than $8 million in federal student financial aid to pay faculty salaries and other bills -- which could be a violation of federal law (see Black Issues, Nov. 7).

Cross has said many of the financial problems began long before she arrived in 1998. She resigned in February and moved to Chicago to work in consulting and motivational speaking.


Among the alleged financial missteps under Cross was a decision to make more money and get more recognition by moving the athletic program from Division II to the bigger-school Division I. But Morris Brown's teams had trouble finding opponents willing to travel to a school with such small facilities. The men's basketball team had to crisscross the country, playing 21 of 30 games on the road.

"That was an extremely expensive undertaking," said Jim Rogers, executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. …

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