Morris Brown College paid $150,000 toward its outstanding water bill Tuesday afternoon to help keep the school open.
College officials still owe $65,000 to the city of Atlanta’s Watershed Management Department, which must be paid within 30 days, officials say. The two parties agreed to amend an existing court order, pending a judge’s order, according to a statement released by the city’s water department.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement and receive this substantial payment from Morris Brown College,” said Watershed Management Commissioner Robert Hunter in a statement e-mailed to Diverse. “We are glad that Morris Brown can remain open and continue its reorganization efforts.”
In December, the city of Atlanta turned off Morris Brown’s water supply as a result of an outstanding water bill totaling more than $380,000. The city later restored the water but only after school officials made a partial payment of $100,000. At that time, the college was issued a court order to pay an additional $214,000 by Feb. 17 or risk losing water service again.
Students, alumni and administrators hustled over the weekend and hit the airwaves Tuesday to make a last-minute push to raise the additional money but still came up short.
Morris Brown, the Atlanta-based four-year college, lost its accreditation seven years ago and is facing a seemingly insurmountable mountain of debt. For the past five years, school officials have maintained that scaling a $30 million heap was difficult but doable.
In 2002, Morris Brown lost its accreditation amid a financial scandal that eventually led to the 2004 conviction of Dr. Delores Cross, the college’s former president, and her financial aid director on federal charges.
Most financial aid has been cut off from the school since it lost accreditation in 2002. In 2008, the Georgia General Assembly allowed the school to start accepting HOPE scholarship students again, raising student enrollment from a low of 56 to 240.
Today, fewer than 200 students are registered for the spring semester, according to media reports.
But there is still hope, says Charles Gyden, Far West region vice president of the Morris Brown College National Alumni Association.
“We are actively engaged in personal giving to the college, and we are involved in a major fundraising effort in March of this year involving the president of the university and the national alumni director,” Gyden told Diverse in a recent telephone interview. “I am confident that we will meet the challenge that is before us. It is a formidable challenge, but we will beat it.”
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