Morris Brown College has been struggling to keep its doors open for over a decade. In 2002, the 133-year-old institution lost its accreditation, federal funding, and watched as most of its students and staff fled to other colleges. After years of crushing debt, Morris Brown is now looking to fight its way out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and return the school to its former glory.
Last week, an Atlanta court gave Morris Brown permission to sell off most of its property in a desperate move that could be the only way to save the college.
Saddled with $30 million in debt, Morris Brown sits on a very lucrative plot of land just west of the new Atlanta Falcon’s stadium in a section of town that is at the center of a planned redevelopment effort. School officials hope a sale could help the institution recover from bankruptcy and regain its accreditation in just two years.
At its height, Morris Brown had over 3,000 students enrolled, but today, the sprawling campus only has 35. While many wonder why anyone would continue their studies at such a troubled institution, Joquala Walker said it’s simple: Morris Brown needs her.
When Marketplace asked Walker why she chose to attend Morris Brown given its troubles, the 26-year-old student said, “Why not Morris Brown? It deserves a chance just like everybody else does. They want to help.”
Makisha Funderburke, who believes in the college so much that she teaches for free, agrees. Funderburke explained her commitment to the school to Marketplace: “I just think Morris Brown should be given a chance.” She adds, “And it’s been done pretty well surviving 10years. A lot of people are wondering ‘Why and how’?”
The institution may just get that chance with a successful sale of 35 acres of its property. Although two proposed sales have fallen through in the past, Morris Brown president Dr. Stanley Pritchett is confident this move will put the college back on track.
“In order for us to get the resources needed, we’re going to have to divest ourselves of some of the physical assets,” Pritchett told WABE.
Morris Brown College is a private liberal arts college founded in 1881 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Originally named Morris Brown Colored College, the school formally opened its doors on October 15, 1885 and was the first institution in Georgia under sole African-American patronage. Morris Brown’s impressive group of alums include civil right’s activist Hosea Williams, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson, and actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd.