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Morris Brown May Seek Accreditation With Another Agency

Morris Brown May Seek Accreditation With Another Agency
Officials plan to cut jobs, start fund-raising campaign to save school


Morris Brown College will seek accreditation from another agency if it loses an appeal of its loss of standing with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, says president Dr. Charles Taylor.

Taylor said being accredited with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools would make Morris Brown eligible to receive the federal financial aid the college relies on.

The SACS revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation last month because of financial problems, its lack of compliance with federal regulations for student financial aid and a failure to maintain audits and other documents (see Black Issues, Jan. 2).

Even with a new accrediting agency, under federal law the private, historically Black college must wait two years to be eligible for financial aid, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Education.

And officials of Transnational said Morris Brown would have to be in good financial standing.

“Institutions must be solvent and have financial capabilities to continue to operate,” says Dr. Russell Fitzgerald, the executive director of the accrediting agency.

Taylor has said the school would focus first on appealing SACS’ decision. The school technically retains its accreditation while it awaits an appeal hearing, expected to be held in March. If the Atlanta-based college loses, the U.S. Department of Education has said it would immediately cut off the financial aid that most Morris Brown students rely on.

Meanwhile, college officials plan to cut jobs and start a $50 million fund-raising campaign to save the school.

“I want to pledge to everyone that we are doing everything we possibly can to get us out of this hole,” Taylor says.

Soon after taking office in September, Taylor estimated the school’s debt at $23 million. He said last month it was closer to $27 million.

Taylor said he will cut jobs beginning Jan. 1, but he did not give a number. The 117-year-old school currently employs about 525 people.

“We have too many employees here,” Taylor says. “We’re going through a process of identifying who the best employees are and who we, unfortunately, will have to let go.”

Taylor said Morris Brown will ask Georgia’s African Methodist Episcopalian churches, with which the school is affiliated, to pledge at least $2.5 million by June, says Deloris Saunders, the school’s national alumni association president.

In addition, the school hopes to raise $2.5 million from alumni by the end of this year — $1,000 from each of the 2,500 members of the national alumni association.

In related news, a former top school official filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and ex-president Dr. Dolores Cross.

Jonnie Brown, who was vice president of fiscal affairs, said in the suit in federal court that she was fired for blowing the whistle on improper spending.

Brown said she alerted Cross, who resigned in February, about mounting financial problems as early as June 2001.

The lawsuit said she also reported the problems to the school’s board of trustees, its external auditor and the U.S. Department of Education.

Cross later demoted Brown and then fired her in January 2002, the lawsuit said. Brown, whose salary topped out at $120,000, is also seeking back pay.

Cross, who became president in 1998, has denied any wrongdoing, saying she worked hard to solve the school’s problems. In an interview in November, she said she fired Brown for not making improvements in her department fast enough and for fighting with financial aid director Parvesh Singh.

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