A Hope and a Prayer

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  • Atlanta’s Morris Brown College needs prayer and it needs relief from debt, leaders of the historically black institution say.
    Saturday, they’ll gather at 1 p.m. at the 131-year-old school to pray and also announce plans to help avoid foreclosure.

    “Morris Brown can survive,” says Benjamin Harrison, spokesman for the college’s Board of Trustees. “There have been mistakes in years past that have contributed to the current situation. Our chairman Bishop. Preston Williams is a transformative leader who is inspired in his work,” Harrison told BlackAmericaweb.com.

    The task at hand right now for Morris Brown and its supporters may be the biggest one it has faced in the 10 years it has struggled since losing accreditation.

    The college has fallen behind on a payment of bond debt and investors called $13 million worth of bonds tied to college property.

    On Tuesday, Sept. 4, several historic buildings on the campus and the administration building are set to be auctioned.

    In 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools stripped Morris Brown of its accreditation, and that meant that students who attend could not receive federally-funded financial aid. A majority of students who attend historically black colleges and universities rely on financial aid to help with costs, according to the United Negro College Fund.

    In spite of efforts to attract non-traditional students with online learning programs and degrees tailored for specific under represented concentrations, enrollment has now dipped to 50 students, college officials said.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, enrollment at Morris Brown would sometimes hit as high as 3,000, students.

    But in recent years, the college founded by blacks for the education of blacks, has often been on the brink. So far, a lifeline has come each time.

    When the college in 2008 got behind on its water bill and service was cut off, the community, alumni and the AME Church rallied to raise more money.

    Just last year, when Morris Brown had an opportunity to pay part of its debt to the U.S. Department of Education and have more than $9 million forgiven, alumni, churches and the communities rallied again, raising more than $500,000.

    George Hopkins, president of the Morris Brown National Alumni Association, said he believes those who love his alma mater will rally again.

    “When I look out at the response to the news on Facebook, I still see folks writing, ‘Morris Brown till the day I die,” Hopkins told BlackAmericaweb.com.

    The alumni association has not developed a plan to assist in meeting the challenge being made public his week, but Hopkins said the college needs more than support from the alumni, churches and the local community.

    Hopkins is a member of the Morris Brown class of 1971 and has fond memories of his college years.

    “There needs to be a national campaign,” Hopkins said. “The alumni and the former Bishop for this area are what really kept the college going.” He is looking to the newly elected bishop for the 6th  AME District to also show leadership.

    In a letter to alumni  and stakeholders last week signed by President Stanley Pritchett and Hopkins, the two pledge their support to college and the new leader of the board.

    “We have made progress in our quest to qualify for accreditation of Morris Brown over the past two years; however, it is the question of financial stability that remains our challenge,” the letter states. “With Bishop Williams' focus on fiscal strength and accountability, we look forward to meeting this challenge head-on during the coming year.”
     

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