- Faith & Family
An auction was set for Morris Brown College in Atlanta in early September, but after some last minute negotiating by the College’s president, Stanley Pritchett, 61, armed with a team of financial advisors, the historically-Black university will keep its doors open — and its assets in tact — for now.
“We’ve been facing financial challenges for the past 10 years and one of our creditors was attempting to foreclose on a major part of our campus even though we have been in continuous discussions in terms of reorganizing our debt,” Pritchett said. “We filed for Chapter 11 so that we would have protection from any kinds of foreclosure actions. We felt this was the most opportune time to reorganize our debt.”
Morris Brown’s debt, according to Pritchett, is well over $30M.
“We have been able to manage our operating expenditures and to bring in revenue as we work towards a redevelopment plan that, of course, must be approved by the court,” he added.
In July, Dr. Preston Williams II, Bishop of the 6th Episcopal District which includes Atlanta, took over as the chairman of the board at Morris Brown College. He will focus on three tasks: debt restructuring; identifying financial resources; and strategic planning.
“The tasks will be facilitated by three committees, all of whom will serve as an extension of the board of trustees and will include several nationally-acclaimed strategists and financial experts to help us develop a plan to successfully emerge from Chapter 11,” Pritchett said.
Loss of accreditation was a major blow
In its heyday, Morris Brown, founded by Blacks over 130 years ago, boasted a student body of 3,000 students. However, after losing its accreditation in 2003, its numbers, already small, continued to dwindle. At last count the College had 35 students enrolled. Still, they had a graduation service last spring.
“We still send students on to graduate school and continue to provide a quality academic program,” Pritchett said. “And we are in the process of reapplying for accreditation. We have fulfilled the majority of the requirements but must show that we are financially stable and that we have adequate library resources.”
Still, Pritchett says he has faith in his College, his staff and the AME Church that supports them.
“We were founded by Blacks in the basement of Bethel AME Church here in Atlanta,” he said. “Students with average or just above average grades need a quality university to attend — that’s the niche that we provide. What we have been able to produce from students with average grades is nothing less than amazing. They are the reason for our existence. This stretch of the valley is to be expected but we know we’re going to overcome it. Other colleges with financial challenges have been given second chances. That’s what we need in order to reinvent ourselves.”
By D. Kevin McNeir