Morris Brown College, one of four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) located in Atlanta, regained its accreditation this week after losing it 20 years ago — becoming the first HBCU in the country to regain the status after such a long hiatus, according to the school’s president.
“This institution was founded on self-determination … to control our own destiny,” school president Kevin James said Thursday at a press conference. “Morris Brown College has demonstrated that we are an institution of quality, that we operate in excellence and we are here to stay.”
The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, a Virginia-based accreditation agency, voted Tuesday to grant Morris Brown full authorization, the impact of which will be felt almost immediately. Students can now receive federal funding for attending the school and will now graduate with accredited degrees.
Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., worked with Morris Brown and the Department of Education in December to restore full federal financial aid eligibility for current and future students at the college. On Tuesday, he too celebrated the school’s achievement.
“Today is a joyous day for the Morris Brown family,” a statement from Ossoff read. “It has been a pleasure working with Dr. James to support Morris Brown’s reaccreditation and to restore access to federal financial aid for Morris Brown students. The future is bright for Morris Brown.”
The moment marks a significant milestone in the school’s 141-year history. Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 by formerly enslaved religious leaders at Big Bethel AME Church and became the first college in the state to be owned and operated by African Americans, according to a press release from the school. The school is a private, coed liberal arts college with a focus on leadership, management, entrepreneurship and technology.
At its peak in the early 2000s, the school had more than 2,500 students enrolled. But rising debt and financial mismanagement led to its accreditation being revoked. In recent years, enrollment had dropped to between 30 and 50 students.
But school leadership is hopeful that its latest reaccreditation will turn things around. James sees it as an opportunity for a fresh start.
“God sent me to Morris Brown College to lead a resurrection called the hard reset,” he said. “Morris Brown College is back, and we will continue to move this institution forward.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: David Goldman/AP, Buyenlarge/Getty Images