May 1, 2006

How Government Programs and Poor Management Destroyed a College.

by @ 3:37 pm. Filed under Education, Nuts on Parade

Once upon a time there were some church going former slaves that had a dream. To build a college they could use to teach themselves, their children and future generations. They built Morris Brown College.

College History

On October 15, 1885, just 22 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the
Emancipation Proclamation, 107 students and nine teachers walked into a crude wooden structure at the comer of Boulevard and Houston Streets in Atlanta, Georgia, marking the formal opening of the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African American patronage. That institution was Morris Brown College, named to honor the memory of the second consecrated Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

The circumstances that evoked the founding of Morris Brown are traditionally linked to a visit by a group of Clark College trustees to Big Bethel Church to interest the AME supporters in furnishing a room in their institution. In response to the proposition they presented, layman Steward Wiley said, “If we can furnish a room at Clark College, why can’t we build a school of our own?” These words ignited a flame in the mind of the Reverend Wesley John Gaines. On January 5, 1881, during the North Georgia Annual Conference at Big Bethel, he introduced
a resolution calling for the establishment in Atlanta of an institution for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth of Negro boys and girls. The steps between the resolution and the opening were few and simple: The Georgia Conference was persuaded to join in the endeavor. An assembly of trustees from both conferences convened in Big Bethel Church and selected the Boulevard site as the school’s home. In May of 1885, the State of Georgia granted a charter to Morris Brown College of the AME Church.

The fact of its founding as a child of the church not only determined the institution’s philosophical thrust, but also created a system of support which functioned to channel its early energies toward developing programs to serve the needs of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The College, at that time, was largely dependent upon a denomination whose constituency was primarily unskilled, untrained, and economically unstable. In order to survive, the College had to absorb into its enrollment a large segment of underachieving students whose parents were loyal supporters of the Church that kept its doors open.

The college was started without government programs. It was surviving without government programs. Yes they had to struggle, but they did it on their own.

That changed once government programs came on the scene.

What began as survival strategy of Morris Brown in 1881 became the liberation cry for Black masses and the country at large in the 1960s. At that point of higher education, that cry was heard in all colleges Black and White, large and small, state and private in the form of pressures to develop programs in tune with the needs of economically disadvantaged youth. For Morris Brown, however, it was a matter of doing what came naturally better and more effectively.

As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, Blacks were progressing at a better rate before government programs than afterwards. Because free money results in a form of dependency on government. I have pointed this out in a previous post. This is what happened to Morris Brown College. The school’s administrators became dependent on government for the school’s viability. They started mishandling how money was used. In that, they used corrupt methods to ensure that the government checks kept rolling in. This is how the once great college fell and now it is hardly a skeleton of its former self.

And with that corruption, comes criminal convictions!

Former Morris Brown president pleads guilty to embezzlement

The former president of Morris Brown College pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling federal funds that were intended to cover student tuition.

Delores Cross, 69, who was president of the college from November 1998 until February 2002, entered the plea in front of U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes at a morning hearing.

Monday’s plea agreement dismisses 27 other counts Cross was facing in connection with the case. Had she gone to trial on the single count to which she pleaded guilty, Cross could have faced up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

Instead, prosecutors are asking that Cross receive a recommended sentence of 10 to 16 months in prison. Her attorneys indicted in court that they would seek a lesser sentence of zero to six months because of an undisclosed medical condition.

The prosecution and defense agreed she will pay $11,000 in restitution if it is imposed by the judge.

Parvesh Singh, former director of financial aid and enrollment services for Morris Brown College, pleaded guilty last week to one count of theft of federal financial aid funds, admitting to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from unwitting students and the government.

He pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $92,000 using the names of students who did not the meet the requirements for full-time enrollment or never attended classes.

Under a December 2004 federal indictment, Singh faced 34 counts of fraud. The remaining counts will be dismissed as part of the agreement. According to a December 2004 indictment, Singh and Cross fraudulently obtained $3.4 million in federally insured student loans and Pell grants to cover in part a $3.3 million credit debt and school expenses.

Approximately $1 million of those funds have been repaid to the Department of Education, according to prosecutors.

Attorneys for Singh and Cross emphasized that neither defendant personally benefited from the stolen funds.

Although Morris Brown obtained the funds legally, it never should have kept the loan money for students who never showed up for classes or were enrolled less than half time, prosecutors said.

Most of the ineligible students did not know the loans had been applied for in their names, or that they would be expected to repay, court documents claim. Cross and Singh also hid the fraud from the school’s board of trustees, and Morris Brown workers have helped with the investigation, authorities said.

Under Cross, the college received between $15 million and $25 million a year in financial aid. Nine of 10 students at the school received some form of financial assistance. She resigned in February 2002 when allegations of mismanagement and fraud surfaced and Morris Brown lost its accreditation.

Enrollment plunged from 2,000 students to as low as 80.

The school became dependent on the government handouts, that were setup for students. If the school was simply struggling on its own, there would have been less available to abuse and any issues could have been addressed without the federal government getting involved.

This is why I have issues with most government programs. It’s also why I am not so “gleeful” about Faith Based Funding of Church based programs. I want taxpayers to have more of their money back, to give as they see fit. Instead of government taking it to decide who gets it. While it means some folks end up having to struggle, that struggle builds character. It keeps people from having time and resources to abuse. This is why the current administrators of a school like Morris Brown College are nothing when compared to those who came before them!

I think Dr. Delores Cross should have to do hard time in prison for what she did. And of course you know I’m an advocate of bringing back hard labor sentences. I’m sure there is some form of labor she could do, even at age 69. You might think my recommendation is crazy, but I assure you we’d have less issues like this if such sentences were brought back. Regarding the dependence on government programs, only a reduction over time can resolve that problem. President Bush has been accused of reducing funding for government programs, although he’s only cut off their continued level of increase. I wish he had actually made cuts.

Although I take issue with government funding in general, I do not feel it is some violation of the 1st Amendment. Schools like Morris Brown College have a long history of being associated with the church. And it was never questioned if they should continue getting government funding. The reason why groups like the ACLU know not to complain about the funding of a school like Morris Brown, is because they know it might cost them support from Blacks. Notice the double standard when a schools funding is questioned on 1st Amendment grounds. Rarely will they question the funding at a Black school, regardless of what the money is used for.

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