State Baptist group affiliation will help Morris College moving forward as coronavirus spreads


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Given the coronavirus outbreak, many smaller private colleges face major financial questions in how they will move forward, but Morris College's affiliation with a state Baptist denomination will help the college sustain.
A college official spoke Friday about how Morris has been affected by COVID-19 and its relationship with the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina, which consists of about 1,100 Baptist churches across The Palmetto State.
Like all colleges across the U.S., Morris is essentially an empty campus right now, and all students have gone home. Also, like all schools with housing and dining services, it's in the process of refunding students prorated fees since campus closed in mid-March.
That's a major financial hit for all colleges that offer residential services, especially smaller institutions with smaller reserves and margins. It was also completely unexpected.
Jacqueline Sturdivant, the college's director of communications and constituent relations, said all classes this semester have been converted to online coursework and virtual learning.
Fortunately for the college, Morris was founded and is still owned by the state Baptist group, Sturdivant said, and the African-American denomination is determined to ensure the college, an HBCU, stays functional and open.
"So, we are concerned about what the future will look like as far as student enrollment and how we will look on the other side of this," she said, "but right now we feel very positive we will come back and do well. We are undergirded by that support, and we feel some relief in that. The association is solidified in helping us to stay above water and open."
The college has changed its spring graduation date to Aug. 8 and, like everyone, is taking things "day-by-day," she said, with hopes that the fallout from COVID-19 will end sooner rather than later.
In tandem with the college's enrollment department, the communications staff hopes to have a "virtual campus tour" set up on the school's website and social media platforms in about one week, she said, to appeal to potential new students for the fall semester.