A decade ago, Morris Brown College, a historically Black educational institutions in Atlanta, lost its accreditation due to an unstable financial position. The loss of accreditation meant that students at the college could no longer qualify for federal financial aid. Since that time, the college has struggled to remain open. Enrollments have dropped from 2,500 to about 50 students. Much of the campus is in disrepair and many of the college’s buildings have been boarded up.
Now the Fulton County Development Authority, the holder of $13.1 million of the college’s debt, has threatened to foreclose on the many of the college’s buildings and property, including its main building. The auction of the college’s assets was scheduled for September 4. According to a spokesperson for the college’s board of trustees, the foreclosure would be “a nail in the coffin, if you will, to the viability of the school going forward.”
In an attempt to stop the sale of its assets, Morris Brown College has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code offers protection to businesses who are unable to pay their debts. The code gives them time to submit a reorganization plan and protects their assets during the process. A college spokesman stated that the filing will delay the foreclosure sale at least until a judge can rule in the case.
Hundreds of supporters of the college gathered on campus on Saturday for a prayer vigil. Preston W. Williams, chair of the board of trustees, stated, “The trustees are taking several deliberate actions to insure that we not only survive, but thrive. Our commitment is to focus on restructuring and making it possible for us to survive another day.”
The board of trustees issued the following statement after the bankruptcy filing was announced:
“Like many institutions that have been impacted by the current economic recession, Morris Brown College is experiencing financial challenges. During the past several years, the Board of Trustees and the Administration of the College have been collectively engaged in a planning process to preserve this great historical and educational institution and to position it for a successful future.
“We continue to explore every financial and tactical option legally available to us in our goal to operate at the highest educational level and remain financially viable. We urgently need your commitment and increased support at this critical time. Please help us sustain this 131-year legacy and ensure bright futures for our current and future students as well as the community at large. You can be assured that your contributions will be used to produce quality education to our students and to serve our community with meaningful programs. We thank you for your continued belief in our fabulous school.”