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Is the Future of HBCUs in Jeopardy?


Morris Brown College and Howard University have been in the news a lot lately concerning their financial and management issues.

Howard University’s possible demise, however, is urgent to some and non-existent to others. A letter written by Howard Board of Trustee member Renee Higginbotham-Brooks to fellow trustees has raised major concerns about the future of the historical university.


According to Higginbotham-Brooks in the letter, the Howard University is “in genuine trouble” and “will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.”

Board chairman Addison Barry Rand insists that the school “remains academically, financially and operationally strong.”

Like Rand, many Howard students and officials deny the claims and insist there is nothing to worry about. However, just earlier this year senior administrators’ pay was cut by 5 percent and staff healthcare plans were temporarily cut.

Faculty at Morris Brown College had similar concerns raised back in 2002 when the college lost its accreditation and federal funding due to mismanagement of funds, resulting in thousands of students being forced leaving Morris Brown in the months following. In addition, the United Negro College Fund also ended its support for the school. In 2012, Morris Brown filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid foreclosure.

As of recent, Morris Brown College has turned down a bailout offered by Major Kasim Reed and the city of Atlanta. The loan would have given the school $10 million in tax payer money and eliminated the school’s outrageous $35 million debt credit along with various legal issues. Anne Aaronson, Morris Brown’s lawyer, gave two reasons why the school denied the money:

  1. Morris Brown has a better offer on the table
  2. $10 million will not cover operating funds

Now, here are my five reasons why this rejection is puzzling:

  1. The school owes $480,000 in back pay for Morris Brown staff and professors
  2. The property is in jeopardy of being sold off in parts as a collection of liquor stores and payday loan shops
  3. The school has to present a redistribution plan at the end of the month in bankruptcy court, at which time theymust have a purchase offer to save the school
  4. A 112-year-old HBCU and landmark in Atlanta is at very high risk of being non-existent in the coming years
  5. The only four buildings that were still in use and could have been rented out due to the bailout are now at risk as well

Whether or not Howard is at risk should be a relevant issue to the African American community. Just as we protect civil rights monuments and sites, we must protect our historically black colleges and universities. Their milestones and legacies for Black America are as important as any other national landmark.

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