Morris Brown College may have had the comeback of the year on Wednesday.
The historically Black college in Atlanta received its full accreditation after losing it 20 years ago, according to a news release from the school.
“Many thought that this feat was impossible, but due to our strong faith in God, our hardworking and wonderful faculty and staff, the support of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, our dedicated alumni, and our resilient spirit, we were able to achieve full accreditation,” college President Kevin James said in a statement.
“This was truly The Hard Reset. This is just the beginning!” James said.
The college was rewarded its accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a Virginia-based accreditation agency.
The initial accreditation will last for a period of five years, so Morris Brown College will appear before an accreditation commission again in 2027, according to TRACS President Timothy W. Eaton.
Reaccreditation means the school is once again eligible to apply for federal education funding that could go toward student financial aid and Pell Grants or on-campus housing, so long as the college remains compliant with federal conditions and standards.
Morris Brown’s comeback is also a beacon of hope for smaller HBCUs struggling with finances and enrollment, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
School was holding on by a thread
The 20-year journey of Morris Brown begins in 2002, when the school’s accreditation was revoked because of debt and financial mismanagement. The once-flourishing college then saw its enrollment plummet from about 2,000 to less than 50. Over the years, the enrollment ranged between 30 and 50 students.
The college never officially closed, but it was holding on by a thread.
Faced with mounting debt and a crumbling infrastructure, the school’s board of trustees offered the administration an option: shutter their doors for good. The grounds could theoretically be converted into a museum or a site for private development, but its days as an active college appeared to be ended.
James, the college’s president, disagreed. He believed there was still a chance to regain accreditation, and evolve as an operational campus.
James was named interim president in early 2019 and officially made president in May 2020. He immediately focused on what he has labeled “the hard reset” for the college.
In April 2021, Morris Brown officially received accreditation candidacy by TRACS. This meant an institution is in basic compliance with the standards and criteria of TRACS and has been evaluated by an on-site peer team that found the institution provides sound instruction and student services.
Fast forward a year later and the school is celebrating its reaccreditation.
Morris Brown was part of the historic Atlanta University Center (AUC), which includes Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Clark Atlanta University. While the school is no longer a member, the AUC’s website states Morris Brown is “largely significant to the Consortium’s rich legacy.”
It was founded in 1881 by formerly enslaved religious leaders at Big Bethel AME Church, according to the school’s release.
The college was the first college in Georgia to be owned and operated by African Americans whose notable alumni include Alberta Williams King, the mother of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and James Alan McPherson who was the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize in fiction.
CNN’s Skylar Mitchell contributed to this report.