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Historically Black College Fights To Stay Alive


Some of Morris Brown's financial troubles stem from serious mismanagement by past administrators, but it's not the only historically black school that's struggling. We're going to talk about why that might be with an expert on the finances of historically black colleges and universities and with the president of an historically black college who is also a noted economist. But joining us first is Stanley Pritchett. He is the acting president of Morris Brown. Welcome, sir. Thank you so much for joining us.

STANLEY PRITCHETT: Thank you, Michel, for having me on your program.


MARTIN: Now, you've essentially put out a 911 call to alumni, business leaders. There was a rally over the weekend. What's your status right now? Is there any hope of getting the kind of short-term financing that you need to reopen for the spring, let alone for the long term?

PRITCHETT: So, the rally that we initiated over the weekend was called Morris Brown College Yes We Care, and it's a weeklong rally and three and half hours on Saturday. And mostly, true alumni of Morris Brown College that really believe in this institution, they came forward along with many members of the Atlanta community, and we raised over $70,000 in three and a half hours. Now, that is not $380,000 but it is certainly a great effort towards this most crucial issue that we are dealing with so that we can get the institution back into an operating mode.

MARTIN: So you think if you get the water turned back on, you'll be able to figure out the rest? Because you still don't have the money for the salaries, right?

PRITCHETT: Yes, and what we have done is we have been working with one of our local banks, the CEO of Capitol City Bank & Trust Company. George Andrews has been very helpful in working with us in partnership and sort of as an adviser, a financial adviser as we go through the development of our financial plan. We've also received the support of one of the premier business colleges in this country at Howard University, and members of their business school staff working with us and reviewing the documents that we have and moving towards the actual development of this plan that will allow for investors to make an investment into an educational institution and allow us to address some of the past issues that have been on the books now, in some cases, as long as seven years, probably past due balances of expenditures.

MARTIN: This would be a very sad end for Morris Brown if it does close. It's 127 years old. As we said, it's the only institution of higher learning founded by African-Americans. But the question has to be asked, Mr. Pritchett, in the cople of minutes that we have left, is it possible that perhaps Morris Brown's day is simply done, that it no longer - there is no longer a need for an institution like this? Perhaps its mission is perhaps fulfilled - best fulfilled by other institutions. Is that possible?


PRITCHETT: So, we look at this as an opportunity more than saying that this a time of - that Morris Brown is not relevant because when you say Morris Brown is not relevant, you're saying that other HBCUs all over this country are not relevant. They were founded at a time when young people could not get an education, and they now have the ability to allow for these students who are disenfranchised, many students who would not have an opportunity to go college anywhere else, but you've got to have some kind of post-secondary institutions to give our young people a chance to have - a hand up versus a handout.

MARTIN: Mr. Printchett, we surely do appreciate your giving us this time at a difficult time for you. We'd love it if you'd keep us posted.

PRITCHETT: We certainly will, and we certainly would like persons in the audience to go to our Web site. Please keep in touch with us in terms of how they can support this institution at a time when it's really needed.

MARTIN: Stanley Pritchett is the acting president of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. He was kind enough to join us on the phone from his office. Thank you again, sir, and good luck to you.

PRITCHETT: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.