SAN ANTONIO -- Morris Brown College was stripped of its accreditation Tuesday, a blow that will cost the historically black school the federal financial aid most students depend on to help pay their tuition.

Another historically black institution, Grambling State University in Louisiana, will continue on probation for another year, according to the decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Grambling was placed on probation last year over concerns about its confusing financial records.

Morris Brown is more than $23 million in debt and went on probation last year for shoddy bookkeeping and not having enough professors with advanced degrees. The staffing problem was solved, but the school's financial crisis has grown worse in the last year.

Eighty percent of the school's 2,500 students receive financial aid from the federal government, which gives Morris Brown $8 million a year.

The 117-year-old school has been dealing with mounting financial debt and federal scrutiny for more than a year and had hopes that it was finally on the right track.

College president Charles Taylor announced the bad news at a campuswide meeting with students and faculty and said the college will appeal the decision. He also said the college will remain open, though he could not give specifics about how it will make up for the lost financial aid if the decision stands.

"It doesn't take rocket science to figure out if you have debt, you have to do something about that debt," Taylor said.

Morris Brown was founded in 1885 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church -- the only Georgia college founded by blacks.

One of six schools in the Atlanta University Center, Morris Brown's mission has been in part, to educate students who might not have had the opportunity to go to college otherwise.

Notable alumni include the late civil rights activist Hosea Williams and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson.

 

MORRIS BROWN'S RECENT WOES: (TIMELINE)

JUNE 1999: Dolores Cross becomes president.

SEPT. 1999-MARCH 2000: Feds help MBC develop process to apply for student aid.

MARCH 2000: MBC agrees to repay feds $463,000 in student aid money it couldn't justify receiving. Feds take school off reimbursement.

AUGUST 2000: MBC announces it will become nation's first historically black college to go wireless.

NOV./DEC. 2000: MBC students complain to state about inaccurate financial aid awards.

JANUARY 2001: State conducts on-site review, requires MBC to return more than $1 million in loans for students. State notifies feds of potential problem in financial aid office.

APRIL 2001: Feds begin assessment of financial aid office at MBC.

JUNE/JULY 2001: Assessment turns up numerous duplicate awards to students and disbursements for people not enrolled at MBC.

AUGUST 2001: Feds consider putting school back on reimbursement but hold off because of upcoming on-site visit by the college's accreditation agency. MBC is told to have student aid approved before it is drawn down from federal accounts.

AUG./NOV./DEC. 2001: Feds do on-site audit of financial aid disbursement, find 80-90 percent error rate in student files. Feds tell Cross that on-site monitoring will continue through spring term.

DECEMBER 2001: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Morris Brown's accreditation agency, puts the college on probation for poor financial management and staffing concerns.

DECEMBER 2001: Computer Sales International sues MBC for $4.2 million for failing to pay for students' laptops.

DECEMBER 2001: MBC announces that students who have unpaid bills will not get housing for spring semester.

JANUARY 2002: MBC draws down $8 million in federal aid without prior approval from feds. School begins repaying debts to vendors. MBC is placed on reimbursement. Inspector general's office is notified of potential fraud.

FEB./MARCH 2002: Feds begin analysis to determine how much of the $8 million MBC must return. Cross and Financial Aid Director Parvesh Singh resign.

JULY 2002: Analysis by private firm shows MBC must return $5.39 million to feds. College requests payment plan.

AUGUST 2002: Fall semester begins.

SEPTEMBER 2002: Feds reject 100 percent of school's applications for federal aid because of errors. Charles Taylor becomes president.

SEPT. 18, 2002: U.S. immigration officials charge MBC professor with selling visas to foreigners who don't enroll at the college. Feds investigate whether school also received financial aid for these students.

OCT. 1, 2002: Southern Association deadline for fiscal year 2002 audit.

OCT. 28, 2002: Southern Association to begin visit.

DEC. 10, 2002: Morris Brown announces it has lost its accreditation.

 

FACTS ABOUT MORRIS BROWN:

History: founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church as the only college in Georgia established by African Americans for African Americans

 

Size: 2,785 students from 41 states and 17 countries

Character: independent, coeducational, four-year liberal arts institution

Accreditation: Morris Brown College was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097; Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award Baccalaureate degrees.

Memberships: Association of Private Colleges and Universities, the Association of Governing Boards, the Council for Advancement and Support Education, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the Council of Independent Colleges, the College Fund/UNCF, and many learned societies

Degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science

Average class size: 25

Faculty: 104 full-time, with more than 64 percent holding the highest degree in their disciplines

Student/faculty ratio: 15:1

International exchange: The Study Abroad Office provides the opportunity to study for an academic year at top universities in several different countries as well as short-term study opportunities, Fulbright and Rotary fellowships, internships, volunteer programs and short-term work opportunities. 

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