With a mountain of debt and less than three dozen remaining students, Morris Brown College in Atlanta may be reconsidering its refusal last year to sell its 37-acre campus to the city, according to media reports.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in February that the school sought a bankruptcy court’s approval to retain a real estate broker and pursue the sale of its campus. It was unclear how that sale would affect the college’s handful of remaining students and its continued operation.
The historically Black institution was founded in 1881, but was crippled in 2003 when it lost its accreditation after an investigation revealed two top officials embezzled millions in student financial aid and redirected it to other purposes.
Attendance plummeted as thousands of students sought an education elsewhere; according to a recent profile by American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” the school currently boasts just 35 students attending classes at a campus which is largely boarded up.
The Journal-Constitution reported the school rebuffed a $9.7 million offer by the city last year that would have absolved the school of more than $35 million in debt. The newspaper indicated that the city could potentially sell or lease portions of the property to other groups, including two local churches, while still allowing Morris Brown space to operate.
However, the Journal-Constitution reported that the school may have changed its mind, after an open records request revealed that Morris Brown officials contacted Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in early March to gauge the city’s interest in renewing talks on a deal.
The school sits near an area targeted for revitalization, including a planned new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
“Let me be very clear in my thinking about Morris Brown. There’s getting ready to be a $1.2 billion investment on that corridor,” Reed told the Journal-Constitution. “It makes sense for the city to control a strategic asset to be developed with the strength of the community in mind.”
Morris Brown professor Makisha Funderburke is among the handful of educators who remain, and told “Marketplace” that she teaches without pay to help the college stay alive.
“I just think Morris Brown should be given a chance,” she said.
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