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Former Morris Brown College president Dr. Dolores Cross acknowledges that the school used $8 million in student financial aid to pay bills, but she says the U.S. Department of Education has overreacted in a review of financial practices at the college.
“When the money came in, we paid the vendors,” Cross told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. “When you have a college that is 82 percent tuition-driven, when money comes in, you pay bills. You take care of faculty.”
Federal investigators are exploring whether Morris Brown committed fraud by paying expenses rather than disbursing the funds to student accounts (see Black Issues, Oct. 24).
The historically Black college, part of the Atlanta University Center, has been ordered to repay the Department of Education $5.4 million because the school could not prove students qualified for the funds or that all of them were even enrolled. The school, which has about 2,500 students, has not repaid any of the money, according to the Department of Education.
Cross, who resigned in February, said she was being unfairly blamed for the school’s problems with financial aid. She said many of them had begun before she arrived in 1998. The former president, who now lives in Chicago, said she worked with the Department of Education to solve the problems.
Representatives from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools visited Morris Brown late last month to review its finances and staffing. The accreditation group put the school on probation in December for poor accounting practices and for having too few faculty members with advanced degrees in their subjects.
Dr. Charles Taylor, the school’s new president, said last month he was working on a recovery plan for the school that he would present to the accreditation committee.
The Department of Education now has Morris Brown on a financial aid reimbursement system, which means the school must pay bills for student aid expenses and then apply to the federal government for repayment.
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