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Liberty University (LU) is a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia.[9][10]

Liberty University
Liberty University seal.svg
Former names
Lynchburg Baptist College
Liberty Baptist College
MottoKnowledge Aflame[1]
TypePrivate
Non-profit
Established1971
Academic affiliation
Endowment$1.43 billion[2]
PresidentJerry Falwell Jr.[3]
Academic staff
2,500
Students75,756[4]
Undergraduates47,050[4]
Location, ,
U.S.
CampusSuburban
7,000 acres (28 km2)[5]
ColorsBlue, white, red[6]
              
NicknameLiberty Flames and Lady Flames
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division I
Atlantic Sun Conference, FBS Independent, Big East Conference, Coastal Collegiate Sports Association
MascotSparky
Websitewww.liberty.edu
Montview - Liberty University
Liberty University is located in Virginia
Liberty University
Liberty University is located in the United States
Liberty University
LocationLiberty University campus between VA 670 and US 29, Lynchburg, Virginia
Area1.7 acres (0.69 ha)
Built1923
NRHP reference #87000854[7]
VLR #118-0210
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 5, 1987
Designated VLRDecember 9, 1986[8]
Liberty University logo.svg

It is one of the largest Christian universities in the world and the largest private non-profit university in the United States, measured by student enrollment.[11][12] As of 2017, the university enrolls more than 15,000 students at its Lynchburg campus and more than 94,000 students in online courses for a total of about 110,000 in all.[13]

The school consists of 17 colleges, including a school of medicine and a school of law.[14] Liberty's athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Liberty Flames. Their college football team is an NCAA Division I FBS Independent, while most of their other sports teams compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Studies at the university have a conservative Christian orientation, with three required Bible-studies classes in the first year for undergraduate students.[15] The university's honor code, called the "Liberty Way", prohibits premarital sex and private interactions between members of the opposite sex.[16][17] Described as a "bastion of the Christian right" in American politics, the university plays a prominent role in Republican politics.[18] The university teaches creationism alongside the science of evolutionary biology.[10][19]

Contents

HistoryEdit

Founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell and Elmer L. Towns the university began as Lynchburg Baptist College.[20] Already pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Falwell served as the first president of the school. The name was changed to Liberty Baptist College in 1977 before settling on Liberty University in 1985. Liberty University's tax exempt status was formally recognized by the IRS in 1987. Upon the death of his father in 2007, Jerry Falwell Jr. became the university's president.[20][21]

Since 1999, Liberty has had an informal relationship with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia by way of having two members from that organization on the university board of trustees.[22][23]

In its early years, the university was held afloat financially by major donors.[24] The university was placed on probation multiple times in the 1990s by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to heavy debt loads.[24] In 1990, the university's debt totaled $110 million; in 1996, it totaled $40 million.[24] As of 2017 the university's endowment stands at more than $1 billion and gross assets are in excess of $2 billion.[25]

In 1985, the university began a distance learning program by mailing VHS tapes to students[24] and was the forerunner to Liberty University's current online program. When high-speed Internet connections became more widespread around 2005, Liberty began to offer online courses to a larger adult population.[24][26]

CampusEdit

 
DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University
 
Liberty University Vines Center
 
The Freedom Tower was completed in February 2018. At 275 feet, it is the tallest building in Lynchburg.

The 17-story Freedom Tower was completed in February 2018 and, at 275 feet, is the tallest building in Lynchburg. The tower holds a 25-bell carillon which includes a replica of the Liberty Bell.[27]

Liberty University's Center for Music & Worship hosts the Miss Virginia beauty competition which sends the winner of the state to represent it in the Miss America Pageant.[28][29]

 
Top of the Snowflex synthetic ski slope overlooking Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre

Construction was completed in August 2009 on the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, a synthetic ski slope featuring Snowflex; the Centre was designed by England's Briton Engineering. It includes beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes, and is the first of its kind in the United States.[30]

The Observatory Center opened in the spring of 2013 next to the Equestrian Center. The dome consists of a classroom that can fit up to 20 people. It houses a 20-inch (510 mm) RC Optical Systems Truss Ritchey-Chrétien high-quality research telescope and several Celestron CPC 800 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes on pedestals, able to roll out under a roof. The observatory serves three purposes: instruction, public nights and research. Student Activities controls the use of the observatory and is open to all students.[31]

It was announced in December 2016 that Liberty University will be constructing an on-campus shooting range for students to protect themselves against active shooters and terrorist attacks.[32]

Libraries and museumsEdit

Jerry Falwell LibraryEdit

The four-story, 170,000-square-foot Jerry Falwell Library opened in January 2014.[33] The library features a robot-assisted storage and retrieval system for over 250,000 archived items, with room for another 170,000. The robot locates requested items within a large storage room and delivers the items to the front desk. There are also 150 public computers throughout the building for electronic archive research. The library features group study rooms, writable walls, balconies, terraces, and a vegetative roof. The entrance to the library is highlighted by a 24 ft media wall powered by three Microsoft Kinect units and integrated using a custom program. The media wall uses motion-sensor technology to enable visitors to scroll through university news, browse pictures contributed from students and learn about upcoming university events.[34] The $50 million library is part of a larger $500 million building and expansion plan announced by Liberty University.[35][36]

National Civil War Chaplains MuseumEdit

The National Civil War Chaplains Museum contains exhibits about clergy members and religious activity during the Civil War era. It is the only museum in the nation devoted to this purpose. The mission of the museum is to "educate the public about the role of chaplains, priests, and rabbis and religious organizations in the Civil War; to promote the continuing study of the many methods of dissemination of religious doctrine and moral teachings during the War; to preserve religious artifacts, and to present interpretive programs that show the influence of religion on the lives of political and military personnel."[37] A 501(c)(3) organization, the museum rents space from Liberty University's DeMoss Center. It has 10,000 square feet, with a 50-seat video theatre, archive displays, a research library, and bookstore.[citation needed]

The museum commemorates Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains (including African American chaplains), and houses publications and artifacts from both the Union and Confederate militaries. There are several areas in the museum that are given special attention including:

Two new exhibits have been added to the museum as of 2012: "a "mourning room" with period furniture and decorations (including a cross formed from the woven hair of dead Confederate soldiers), and an exhibit on Civil War sharpshooters featuring Rev. Lorenzo Barbour, chaplain to the Confederate Berdan's Sharpshooters."[40]

Carter Glass MansionEdit

The Carter Glass Mansion is an historic home originally built in 1923 by U.S. Senator Carter Glass, a newspaper publisher, politician and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Woodrow Wilson as well as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and President Pro Tempore of the Senate during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.[41] Also known as Montview, the mansion is part of the National Register of Historic Places and is a state landmark. The 1.7-acre (0.69 ha) estate consists of a ​1 12-story main building flanked by slightly smaller ells. The 18-inch (46 cm) walls are constructed of quartz fieldstone quarried from the property and the mansion is covered with a grey gambrel roof.[41] The estate was purchased by Liberty University in the late 1970s to function as the headquarters of the university administration, housing the main office of university founder Jerry Falwell. One of the many reasons for the estate's continued fame is that Falwell died at his desk at the Carter Glass Mansion on May 15, 2007; his office has been preserved in the same condition ever since. Falwell and his wife were buried on the rear lawn of the mansion and a memorial to Falwell was placed there, overlooking the rest of the campus. The estate now serves mainly as a tourist site for the historically restored mansion as well as the Falwell office, while the upstairs section of the mansion has been converted to a bed and breakfast for Liberty University guests.[42]

AcademicsEdit

Liberty University Colleges and Schools[43]
College/school

Aeronautics
Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASAS)
Arts and Sciences
Behavioral Sciences
Business
Communication and Digital Content
Divinity
Education
Engineering and Computational Sciences
General Studies
Government
Health Sciences
Law
Music
Nursing
Osteopathic Medicine
Visual and Performing Arts
 
Liberty University School of Aeronautics Cessna 172
 
Liberty's DeMoss Hall, the campus's main academic building exhibiting Jeffersonian architecture

As of August 2017, Liberty University offered over 550 total programs, 366 on campus and 289 online.[44] There are 144 graduate programs and 4 doctoral programs offered on campus.[44] It is classified as a doctoral research university with moderate research activity by the Carnegie Classification[45] and is recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.[46]

College of Arts and SciencesEdit

The Liberty University College of Arts and Sciences includes eight different departments and offers PhD, masters, bachelors, and associate degrees.[47]

The college teaches Young Earth creationism, a pseudoscience, as a science (alongside evolution) in biology and earth science classes.[48]

College of Osteopathic MedicineEdit

The Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) opened in August 2014,[49] funded in part by a $12 million matching grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.[50]

In July 2015 the college of osteopathic medicine opened Liberty Mountain Medical Group LLC, a primary care clinic serving the greater Lynchburg area.[51][52][53]

The college received initial accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (AOA-COCA) in 2018.

Helms School of GovernmentEdit

Liberty's Helms School of Government offers degrees in Criminal Justice, Government and Public Administration, International Relations, Pre-Law, Public Policy, Strategic Intelligence, Fire Administration, etc. in both bachelor's and master's degrees. The Helms School of Government also offers terminal degrees in Criminal Justice and Public Policy.[54][55]

Rawlings School of DivinityEdit

The Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity (formerly Liberty Divinity School) was founded in 1973.[56] The Rawlings School of Divinity currently offers 44 bachelor's degrees, 44 master's degrees, and 14 doctorate degrees.[57] Many programs are on campus only, while others are available online.[58] It is housed in the Freedom Tower.[59]

School of AeronauticsEdit

Liberty offers 12 different bachelor's degrees in Aeronautics from professional pilot to UAS[60] Liberty's School of Aeronatics currently has over 1,200 students worldwide.[61] Liberty has partnered with various airlines (American Eagle, Piedmont Airlines and Wayman Aviation) to alleviate pilot shortages.[62][63][64] Liberty University's School of Aeronautics flight team captured the prestigious Loening Trophy awarded to the outstanding all-around collegiate aviation program in the nation at the 2017 and 2018 NIFA SAFECON National Competition. In addition, the team captured the American Airlines Safety Award for the third year in a row.[61]

School of BusinessEdit

Liberty University's School of Business offers 46 bachelor's,[65] 67 master's,[66] and 14 doctoral degrees.[67] Liberty's school of business is ACBSP accredited.[68][69]

School of EngineeringEdit

Liberty's School of Engineering offers degrees in Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.[70] The School of Engineering is accredited through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).[71] In 2017, Liberty bought The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) facility in Bedford, Virginia.[72]

School of LawEdit

Liberty University School of Law ranks among the top 10 law schools in the United States for post-graduation unemployment at a rate of 26.3%.[73] Currently, Liberty has a School of Law student body population of 168 and is ranked 9th in the Moot Court National Ranking.[74] The law school has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 2010.[75] In 2019, Liberty's school of law had a 100% pass rate on the Virginia Bar Exam. This pass rate was tied with the University of Virginia for the highest in the state.[76] In January, 2009, the controversial former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline became a professor at Liberty's School of Law.[77]

Center for Law and GovernmentEdit

In 2017, Liberty announced its new Center for Law and Government will be led by former U.S. Representative Robert Hurt.[needs update] The center will house both the Liberty University School of Law and the Jesse Helms School of Government.[78]

School of MusicEdit

The departments of worship and music studies and of music and humanities were merged in 2012 into a school of music, itself composed of two distinct centers.[79][80][81][82]

College of Applied Studies and Academic SuccessEdit

Liberty University's College of Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASAS) houses the Academic Success Center, the Eagle Scholar's program, Technical Studies, Continuing Education, and Success Courses.[83]

Technical studies and tradesEdit

Along with over 15 other associate programs, Liberty offers Vocational education with various associate degrees in Carpentry, Electrical, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC), Plumbing, and Welding. These trades are approved by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.[84]

Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts CenterEdit

Liberty University offers a Bachelor of Science in Cinematic Arts Degree, which is based in the new Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center (ZGCAC).[85] The current department chair is Stephan Schultze[86] In Spring 2018, the ZGCAC collaborated with an outside studio to produce a feature film about President Donald Trump named The Trump Prophecy (2018).[87][88]

Liberty University OnlineEdit

Liberty University has an Internet education component called LU Online, which provides degrees from associate's level to doctorate. Prior to the launch of its online education component in 2009, the university provided adult learning courses through the LU School of Lifelong Learning (LUSLLL) by way of its External Degree Program.[citation needed]

RankingsEdit

University rankings
National
Forbes[89] 610
U.S. News & World Report[90] 231–300

Liberty University is ranked #231–300 (out of 310) in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of "National Universities".[15] In 2017, Forbes's list of America's Top Colleges ranked Liberty University 610 of 650 overall as a "Top College", 242 as a "Research University" and 157 "in the South". Forbes also gave Liberty a "Forbes Financial Grade" of B+.[4]

In 2016, Liberty University had a graduation rate of 42%.[91]

Liberty is consistently ranked as the 'Most Conservative College in America' by Niche and various other publications.[92][93][94] Niche also ranks Liberty as the #1 best 'Online College in America' and as having the #6 best 'College Campus in America'.[95] Its college campus is ranked as one of the 10 largest college campuses in the U.S., with over 7,000 acres.[96] Liberty has also been ranked one of the ten most conservative colleges in the U.S. by Young America's Foundation.[97]

In 2005, Barron's Profiles of American Colleges ranked undergraduate admission to LU as a "competitive", its fourth-highest of six ranks.[98][99]

AccreditationEdit

Liberty was founded in 1971 and received Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation in 1980,[100] which was most recently reaffirmed in 2016.[101] In addition, it was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) in September 1984, but resigned its TRACS accreditation on November 6, 2008.[102][103] Liberty has more than 60 accredited degree granting programs.[104] The law school, which opened in August 2004, gained provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2006 and was granted full accreditation in 2010.[105] The medical school, which opened in 2014, is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (AOA-COCA). On December 9, 2009, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that "Liberty University has received Level VI accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). This is the highest classification from SACS and is reserved for colleges and universities that offer four or more doctoral degrees.[106][107] Liberty is also accredited by: Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET),[108]National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE),[108]Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE),[108] Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI),[109]National Association of Schools of Music (NASM),[110] Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE),[108] Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP),[108] Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP),[111] Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP),[112] and the Commission on Sport Management Education (COSMA)[113]

Student lifeEdit

DemographicsEdit

The acceptance rate for new first-time, full-time students entering Liberty's resident program in Fall of 2017 was 30%.[114]

As for the fall of 2016 the racial make up of students on campus at Liberty was 70% White, 15% Unknown, 5% Hispanic/Latino, 5% Black, 2% Two or more races, 2% Asian, .5% American Indian/Alaskan Native.[115] Including online students, Liberty's undergrad population was 51% White, 26.5% Race/Ethnicity Unknown, 15.4% Black or African American, 2.3% Two or More Races, 1.7% Hispanic/Latino, 1.4% Non-Resident Alien, 0.9% Asian, 0.6% American Indian or Alaskan native, 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.[116] All 50 States and Washington DC are represented along with 86 countries.[117]

As of 2010, when including online students, LU was the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world.[118] As of 2013, LU was the largest private non-profit university in the United States.[11] In terms of combined traditional and distance learning students, Liberty University is the 7th largest four-year university, and the largest university in Virginia.[119]

Anti-LGBT stanceEdit

Liberty University prohibits transgender identities and prohibits sexual relations between same-sex couples (whether they are married or not).[120][121] Students at the university have criticized the university for being unwelcoming to LGBT students.[120] Campus Pride, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights on college campuses, listed Liberty University as one of the worst universities for LGBT students.[122] Falwell Jr. says the university does not have an anti-gay bias, and some gay students have defended the university.[120]

In 2015, Liberty University denied the discounted tuitions to the same-sex and trans spouses of military personnel that it offered to heterosexual military couples.[123]

In 2016, it was reported that the university made a special order for a version of a psychology textbook that omitted sections containing LGBT content.[124]

Honor codeEdit

The Liberty University honor code prohibits premarital sex, and attending dances.[16] Visiting members of the opposite sex alone is also prohibited.[17] Students are not allowed to consume alcohol or tobacco.[125] In 2015 Liberty revised the code to give students the freedom to watch rated "R" movies and to play video games rated "M".[126] In 2017 the curfew policy was changed to permit students age 20 and over to sign out and stay out past curfew.[127] In 2018 a bill was rejected that would have allowed off campus drinking, "foul language" and the use of tobacco.[128]

ConvocationEdit

 
Convocation at the Vines Center

Liberty's convocation is the largest weekly gathering of Christian students in America. Speakers include a wide variety of influential individuals.[129][130]

Residential students at Liberty are required to attend Convocation at the Vines Center twice per week, although they have one unexcused absence per semester to use, which must be cleared with leadership.[131]

Clubs and organizationsEdit

 
Liberty University LaHaye Student Union building

According to Liberty's website, there are over 100 registered clubs on campus.[132]

Speech and debateEdit

Liberty's Inter-Collegiate policy debate program ranked first overall for their division in the Championships at the National Debate Tournament in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011.[133][134][135][136][137] The overall rankings include varsity, junior varsity, and novice results. In varsity rankings, Liberty finished 20th in 2005, 17th in 2006, 24th in 2007, 12th in 2008, 9th in 2009, 4th in 2010 and 4th in 2011. Through 2016, Liberty hosted the Virginia High School League's (VHSL) annual Debate State Championships every April. Subsequent to controversial remarks made by Chancellor Falwell in December 2015 following the 2015 San Bernardino attack, a number of high school students, teachers, debate coaches, and parents expressed concerns over Liberty's suitability for high school events, and some teams chose to not send students to compete at the annual State Championship in 2016.[138] VHSL discontinued using Liberty as a venue for debate competition after 2016 to ensure an "environment free from harassment, personal threat, or physical or mental harm."[139] In 2017, Liberty University's Debate Team finished atop the final rankings of all three national debate tournaments for the eighth time, sweeping the American Debate Association (ADA), the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA), and the National Debate Tournament (NDT). Liberty remains the only school in the country to finish first in all three rankings in a single year. The team has placed first in the CEDA for the last eight years, first in the NDT for seven out of the last eight years, and first in the ADA for 13 out of the last 14 years.[140]

AthleticsEdit

 
Liberty University Williams Stadium

Liberty's athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Liberty Flames. Liberty is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference for 17 of its 20 varsity sports. Women's swimming competes in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, and women's field hockey competes in the Big East Conference.[141] The field hockey team had been a member of the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference before that league's demise following the 2014 season. It then competed as an independent in the 2015 season before joining the Big East Conference for the 2016 season and beyond.[142] Starting in 2018, the football team began competing in the FBS as an independent.[143]

The university regularly competes for the Sasser Cup which is the Big South's trophy for the university which has the best sports program among the member institutions. Liberty has won the Sasser Cup ten times, placing it first in cup titles in the Big South.[144] In 2012 Liberty became the first Big South school to win 5 consecutive Sasser Cups.[145][146]

FootballEdit

The team originally used Lynchburg's City Stadium as their home stadium until October 21, 1989, when the Flames played their first home game on-campus at Williams Stadium in front of 12,750 fans.[147] Recent upgrades to the stadium increased capacity from 12,000 to 19,200 attendees and added luxury suites, a Club level, and a media area. More expansion will increase seating to 30,000.[148]

BasketballEdit

Liberty University's basketball Vines Center can house up to 9,547 spectators for its games.[149] Several members of the Liberty men's basketball (Liberty Flames basketball) team have been recruited to the NBA.[150][151] The women's basketball team (Liberty Lady Flames basketball) was honored by the Big South "with the Top 25 'Best of the Best' moments in League history from 1983–2008, with Liberty University's 10-year women's basketball championship run from 1996–2007 being crowned the No. 1 moment in the Big South's first 25 years."[152]

In 2019, the men's basketball program won the ASUN basketball tournament and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Liberty earned its highest ranking ever when it was selected as the No. 12 seed in the East Region. Liberty set a school record with their 29th win as they upset Mississippi State 80-76 in the first round of the East Region in the 2019 NCAA tournament.[153][154][155] It was their first NCAA tournament win in school history.

BaseballEdit

The Liberty Baseball Stadium, completed in June 2013 and home to Liberty Baseball, was ranked No. 4 among college ballpark experiences by Stadium Journey website in 2015.[156] The stadium includes 2,500 chairbacks, locker room, four indoor batting tunnels, four luxury suites, offices for the baseball program, a weight room, team room and a fully functional press area.[157] Several Liberty Flames baseball players were drafted during the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. Local stations air some games.[158] Some games have aired nationally on ESPNU.[159]

Ice hockeyEdit

Liberty University has men's and women's club ice hockey teams. Men's hockey started in 1985[160] when students at Liberty organized a team to compete against surrounding colleges and clubs[161] but has since become a competitive club team competing against much larger schools such as University of Oklahoma, University of Delaware, and Penn State University.[162] In 2006, Liberty University opened the 3,000-seat LaHaye Ice Center, a gift from Dr. Timothy and Beverly LaHaye.[163] Also in 2006, Liberty became the only school in the state of Virginia to host a men's Division I American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) club hockey team.[161] Currently, Liberty University has Division I, II, and III men's teams and Division I and II women's teams, making it the only school in the ACHA to host fice club hockey teams.[160] The men's Division I team is coached by Kirk Handy,[161] while the women's Division I team is coached by Paul Bloomfield.[164]

Cross countryEdit

The men's and women's cross country teams have long been a conference powerhouse, and Josh McDougal (2007) and Samuel Chelanga (2009–2010) won the NCAA Div I individual laurels. Chelanga took two additional gold medals and three silvers in outdoor and indoor competition in three years, still holds the collegiate 10,000 meter record set in 2010, and won All-American honors 14 times.[165]

Finances, marketing, and recruitmentEdit

 
The initials of Liberty University, on Candler Mountain, as viewed from near campus

In May 2012, Liberty University Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that the school's net assets are worth $1 billion, in part from the success of its online learning program and from accelerated facility expansion.[166][141] The valuation is a 10-fold increase since 2006.[166]

In December 2010, Liberty sold $120 million in facilities bonds, with the proceeds to be used to finance future expansion.[167] An additional $100 million in taxable bonds were sold in January 2012, with the proceeds used to help finance $225.2 million of planned capital projects around the campus over the next five years.[168] The bond offering is part of Liberty University's campus transformation plan[169] which will include several renovations and additions to academic buildings and student housing, as well as fund the new Jerry Falwell Library and formation of a medical school. The bonds received a rating of "AA" from Standard & Poor's and in 2013 received an upgraded rating of "Aa3" along with a "stable outlook" projection from Moody's Investors Services based on "...the increasing scope of the University's activity", "...its large pool of financial reserves", "...uncommonly strong operating performance", and "...discipline around building and maintaining reserves".[170][171]

In March 2017, LU's president Jerry Falwell Jr. stated that the university's endowment stands at more than $1 billion and gross assets are in excess of $2 billion. The U.S. Department of Education rated Liberty as having a 'perfect' financial responsibility score.[25]

Marketing and recruitment practicesEdit

In 2018, ProPublica/New York Times reported on the school's successful and lucrative online program, along with marketing and sales efforts. According to The New York Times, Liberty University evaded federal scrutiny because it is classified as a nonprofit, but this also means that the university gets more federal funding. By 2017, students at the university were sixth in terms of receiving federal aid. The Times reported that most of Liberty University's revenue came from taxpayer-funded sources, and that each of the university's 300 salespeople were pressured to enroll up to eight students per day. A division of 60 sales people targeted members of the military specifically, because they have greater access to federal tuition assistance. The university's salespeople are instructed to describe the costs on a per-credit basis rather than a per-course basis, which makes the university seem more affordable. The salespeople are also instructed to not inform potential students of the Christian orientation of the education; the first classes include three required Bible-studies classes. The credits for the Bible-studies classes are usually not transferable to other Universities, which disincentivizes students from leaving Liberty University for other universities.[15]

According to a former employee, the university accepts any student with a grade point average above 0.5 (equivalent to a D-minus).[15] LU's president Jerry Falwell Jr. says that this is incorrect and that the lowest GPA possible for admittance on-caution is 1.5, which is only in rare circumstances. Otherwise to be admitted in good standing a GPA of 2.0 or above is required.[172]

Federal fundingEdit

Federal financial aid to students is a big part of Liberty University's business model.[173][174] In 2010, students there received about $445 million in federal financial aid money in 2010, the highest total of any school in Virginia and one of the highest in the country.[175][176] The total, a 56 percent increase over the prior year, was mostly in the form of student loans, but also included some grants and other forms of aid.[175] Campus officials estimated the total received in 2013 at $775 million.[177] In 2011, Liberty University blocked campus access to a local Lynchburg newspaper, the News & Advocate, after the newspaper reported on the school's dependence on federal financial aid.[178] Falwell Jr. said that the decision to block the newspaper was unrelated to content published in the paper.[179]

Student loans and defaultsEdit

Liberty University students have a lower default rate compared to the national average of graduates from all schools. However, Liberty University students have a higher rate of defaults within three years of completing their studies compared to graduates of other private, non-profit four-year colleges.[15][125] Liberty University spends far less on instruction than traditional private universities, for-profit colleges and other nonprofit religious colleges.[15] The New York Times reported that faculty at Liberty University acknowledge that Liberty University Online is a steep drop-off in quality relative to the traditional classes at the university.[15] Liberty denies the assertion, stating that both residential and online programs offer high-quality education opportunities.[172] The online division at the Liberty University is a big revenue driver for the university.[180]

In connection with being named to a Trump administration task force on deregulating higher education, University President Falwell alluded, as an example of regulatory overreach and "micromanagement", to Obama-era regulations that govern student loan forgiveness for students who have been cheated by fraudulent colleges.[180][181]

PoliticsEdit

InfluenceEdit

Liberty University has been described as a "stage of choice in Republican presidential politics",[18] and a "pilgrimage site for GOP candidates."[16] According to the Washington Post, Republican candidates are drawn to the university because it is seen as a "bastion of the Christian right".[18] Ronald Reagan's close relationship with the university gave it significant publicity in its early years.[16] In 1990, 41st U.S President George H.W. Bush was the first sitting U.S. president to speak at Liberty's commencement.[182] In 1996, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave the commencement address at Liberty University.[183]

Notable republican leaders Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, and John McCain have visited the campus.[15][20] Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson spoke at the university.[184] In 2017, President Donald Trump gave his first college commencement speech as sitting president at Liberty University.[185] In 2019, Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement speech to graduates.[186][187] Liberty was a satellite location for CPAC 2019, hosting numerous conservative speakers on-campus.[188][189]

 
President Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University Commencement Ceremony.

In 2009, LU stopped recognizing LU's Democratic Party student group; school officials said this was because the Democratic Party platform goes against the school's conservative Christian principles.[190] Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, and Jesse Jackson have spoken there.[16][17] In 2018, former 39th US President Jimmy Carter gave the commencement speech.[191] A number of Democratic presidential candidates and politicians have rejected invitations to speak at LU.[16]

2015 concealed handguns remarksEdit

In a December 5, 2015, convocation speech, President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged the student body to obtain concealed handgun permits.[192] Falwell discussed the 2015 San Bernardino attack and said, "If more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in."[192] This was met with public condemnation for singling out the Muslim religion rather than the act of terrorism. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe called the statement "repugnant". Falwell later stated that he was referring to the Muslim shooters in the San Bernandino attack, not all Muslims.[192][193]

Links to Donald TrumpEdit

Jerry Falwell Jr's uncritical support for President Donald Trump, particularly his tacit support for white nationalism,[194][195][196] has been characterised as a repudiation of Christian values.[197][198] The leadership's support for Trump has been an issue since his candidacy: a number of students protested the university's ties with Trump during his campaign, and were critical of LU president Jerry Falwell, Jr., over his staunch support of Trump.[20][199] Mark DeMoss, chief of staff of Falwell, was forced to resign from Liberty's board of trustees after criticizing the university's close affiliation with Trump.[200] Liberty University rescinded a speaking invitation of Jonathan Merritt, an alumnus of the school, after he criticized Liberty University. Liberty expelled Christian author Jonathan Martin from campus due to his repeated criticisms of the university's affiliation with Trump.[200][201]

In 2016, a student editor said that an opinion column critical of then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump was censored by Falwell.[202][20][125][24] The column was written after lewd comments, made by Trump on an Access Hollywood tape, were made public.[202] Other articles in the student newspaper which mentioned Trump were reportedly spiked by faculty members.[203][204] In 2018, two student editors were fired for reportedly running articles that reflected negatively on Trump; one of the student editors lost a $3,000-a-semester scholarship.[205][203] In 2019, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ranked Liberty University as among the worst universities in terms of free speech, citing the censorship at the student newspaper.[206]

Some students protested when President Trump criticized both white supremacists and counter-protesters after the August 2017 Charlottesville march.[207] Following Trump's remarks, Falwell said that he was "so proud" of Trump for his "bold truthful" statement on the tragedy.[207] A number of students returned their diplomas to Liberty University and called on the university to disavow Trump's remarks.[207][208][209] The students argued that Trump's remarks were "incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness."[207] In 2018, some Liberty students went to Washington DC to support President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.[210] Students at the university gave First Lady of the United States Melania Trump, along with several Trump cabinet officials who spoke at the university during a town hall about the drug epidemic, a standing ovation.[211][212][213]

In Spring 2018, Liberty's Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center co-produced a feature film called The Trump Prophecy. The film focuses on a retired firefighter from Florida who says God revealed to him in 2011 that Trump would one day be President. The film is scheduled to be shown in select cinemas in October 2018.[87][88] In 2019, The Wall Street Journal and Inside Higher Education reported that CIO John Gauger accepted cash, through his consulting business, to rig online polls for Donald Trump before he became president.[214][215]

Notable alumni and associatesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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