Back on The Move: Morris Brown Students Get Permission to Apply for Federal Aid

Back on The Move: Morris Brown Students Get Permission to Apply for Federal Aid

Morris Brown

Back on The Move: Morris Brown Students Get Permission to Apply for Federal Aid. In this photo, the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta appears to be bustling with students on May 2, 2006, but they are student actors from the film "Step Show" being filmed on campus. The school's student body - once 2,000 strong, went down to 107. Four years after allegations of mismanagement and theft of federal student aid first rocked Morris Brown College, it's former president and another top official took the blame for the scandal, closing a painful chapter that threatened to close the doors of the 125-year-old institution founded by former slaves. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Morris Brown College has accomplished another impressive feat in its comeback story. The Atlanta-based HBCU announced that its students now have the ability to receive federal financial aid again.

“We have been waiting for the day for a very long time,” Morris Brown President Dr. Kevin James told Fox 5 on Thursday, Dec. 9. “For our current students, this announcement goes retroactively back to the beginning of the fall 2021 semester and all new students will be eligible for federal financial aid starting in January.”

Stephanie Gunby, Morris Brown’s associate vice president of administration and director of financial aid, echoed her boss.

”This is important because now our students will have access to funds to help them achieve their educational goals,” Gunby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). “Where students before had to pay out of pocket, now they will have access to some of those federal funds that help low-income and first generational students attend college.”

Regaining federal financial aid for students is “a game-changer,” said Morris Brown Chief Financial Officer Shermanetta Carter.

“If there were no Pell Grants available, or other sources of assistance, I would not have been able to finish Morris Brown as a first-generation college student,” Carter said.

The news comes nearly eight months after Morris Brown regained its accreditation and made history as the first HBCU to do so 20 years after losing it. The school has been on a campaign to restore its place as one of the nation’s go-to HBCUs since it first lost its accreditation in 2002 due to hefty debt and financial mismanagement.

As a result, the college experienced a mass exodus of students and sold off much of its property.

“This has been a very long journey, being able to prove that we had the right academic programs, great student services, that we offered a quality education [and] that we were fiscally stable,” James said.

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The news also comes a week after Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff wrote a letter and called on the Biden administration to reinstate Morris Brown’s ability to receive aid, fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

“I urge you to accept Morris Brown College’s application for participation in Federal financial aid programs,” Sen. Ossoff wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “These financial aid programs, like the Federal Pell Grant, are vital to ensuring more students will be able to attend and complete a degree at Morris Brown College.”

James – who has been at the helm of the college since February 2019 – thanked Ossoff for keeping his word. Though he’s kept the faith, James previously acknowledged that many thought the day would never come.

“We were able to hold on all of these years by a thread and a lot of people had written us off. They didn’t think that Morris Brown would ever be able to bounce back,” James said.

Morris Brown alum Timothy Hunt confirmed James’ words. “When the school lost its accreditation I was a senior in college. I’ve seen the transition from when it happened until now. There were times where it was extremely sad and there are times when it was hopeless,” Hunt said.

Founded in 1881, Morris Brown made history as the first HBCU in Georgia founded by Black people for Black people. During its 20 years as an unaccredited institution, it still continued to serve dozens of students.

James told Fox 5 that applications for admission have increased since April and he expects an even greater influx.

“We are preparing for it,” James said. “For Morris Brown, being one of the most affordable colleges in Georgia and the most affordable college in the Atlanta University Center, we anticipate an influx of interest. This is a new day for Morris Brown College.”

He added that other HBCUs which closed have drawn inspiration from Morris Brown. “I’ve already received phone calls from other closed HBCUs who are going to try and reopen because they’ve seen Morris Brown do it,” James said.