Liberty University (LU) is a privateEvangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. and Elmer L. Towns in 1971. When measured in terms of student enrollment it is one of the largest Christian universities in the world and one of the largest private non-profit universities in the United States. Although the university's physical campus is in Lynchburg, most of its students are online. In 2020, the university enrolled about 95,000 students: about 15,000 in its residential program and 80,000 in online courses.
Founded as Lynchburg Baptist College, the school changed its name to Liberty Baptist College in 1977 and to Liberty University in 1985. One of the stated reasons for the first name change was to distance itself from the name Lynchburg, which is often mistakenly associated with lynching; co-founder Towns also said that Falwell Sr., wanted to use the name "Liberty" to ride the enthusiasm for the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976, when the name change for the college was initially proposed.
In 1985, the university launched a distance-learning program by mailing VHS tapes to students; this was the forerunner to Liberty University's current online program. Two years later, Liberty University's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was formally recognized by the IRS.
The university was placed on probation multiple times in the 1990s by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to heavy debt loads. In 1990, the university's debt totaled $110 million; in 1996, it totaled $40million. In 1994, Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Women’s Federation for World Peace funneled $3.5 million to Liberty University.
In 2005, Barron's Profiles of American Colleges ranked undergraduate admission to LU as "competitive", its fourth-highest of six ranks. When high-speed Internet connections became more widespread around 2005, Liberty began to offer online courses to a larger adult population.
At the start of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s presidency in 2007, the university listed $259 million in assets.
Jerry Falwell Jr.
In 2017, Forbes's list of America's Top Colleges ranked Liberty University 585 of the 650 ranked overall as a "Top College", 231 as a "Research University", 371 as a "Private College", and 136 "in the South". Forbes also gave Liberty a "Forbes Financial Grade" of B+.
As of 2017[update], the university's endowment stood at more than $1billion and gross assets exceeded $2billion.
In spring 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberty allowed some students to return to campus after spring break over the objections of the city's mayor and contrary to the practices of most U.S. colleges and universities. When a ProPublica reporter and New York Times photographer investigated why the university remained partially open, the university pushed the local district attorney to charge them with trespassing.
A few months later, then-president Falwell Jr. posted a racist tweet. Some staff resigned in protest; some black students pursued transfers, many contending that the tweet was a symptom of a larger problem at the university. In response to internal and external criticism, Liberty University officials hired Kelvin Edwards, an alumnus and former NFL player, to lead diversity initiatives on campus, then fired him three months later. Edwards sued the university, alleging a breach of contract.
Falwell Jr. was placed on indefinite leave on August 7, 2020, after media began reporting allegations, including photographs, of personal and professional impropriety. A few weeks later, he resigned. He claimed that he was entitled to $10.5 million in compensation from the university because he resigned without either admitting to wrongdoing or having formal accusations opened against him.
At the end of Falwell Jr.'s presidency in 2020, the university listed over $2.5 billion in assets. Following Falwell's resignation, Times Higher Education reported that Liberty University was "facing growing criticism over perceived resistance to diversity" following the departures of Edwards, board chair Allen McFarland, and pastor David Nasser.Jonathan Falwell, a son of Jerry Falwell Sr., replaced Nasser.
In April 2021, Liberty University sued Falwell Jr. for $40 million in damages for breach of contract and violation of fiduciary duty. In the same month, the Liberty University board of trustees replaced acting chairman Allen McFarland, the first African American board chair, with Tim Lee, "a pro-Trump pastor."
In July 2021, the university was sued by 12 anonymous women, including two employees, who alleged that the university created an environment that increased the likelihood of sexual assault and rape in violation of federal Title IX law. The lawsuit alleged that the school's student honor code makes it difficult to report sexual violence because it does not clearly shield students; that the university had a tacit policy that condoned sexual violence, especially by male student athletes, by weighing a denial more heavily than an allegation; and that the school retaliates against women who report sexual violence. In one of the alleged incidents, a 15-year-old who was allegedly attacked by Jesse Matthew, who later confessed to murdering Hannah Graham, was told she would be criminally charged with filing a false report, before they began an "investigation" into her claim, which allegedly only consisted of a demand that she strip and submit to being photographed by the chief of police which she refused to do. She later was not taken to the hospital but the police later pestered her until she agreed to be photographed naked by a female debate coach. In a written response to the lawsuit, Liberty University officials said "The allegations are “deeply troubling, if they turn out to be true," and said that would look into each allegation detailed in the lawsuit. An October 2021 ProPublica investigative report found that Liberty University discouraged and dismissed students coming forward about sexual assault; former students said they were threatened with punishment by coming forward with accusations of sexual assault.
In fall 2021, an outbreak of COVID-19 forced all classes on the Lynchburg campus to go online-only for two weeks. More than 400 students and 50 staff members tested positive for the virus. The campus did not require COVID-19 vaccinations, masks, or social distancing. Outdoor events, including a convocation and football game, were scheduled to continue.
Rawlings School of Divinity, Freedom Tower was completed in February 2018. At 275 feet, it is the tallest building in Lynchburg.
Top of the Snowflex synthetic ski slope overlooking Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre
DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University
The 17-story, 245-foot Freedom Tower, completed in February 2018, is the tallest building in Lynchburg. The tower holds a 25-bell carillon that includes a replica of the Liberty Bell.
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.
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. The first of its kind in the United States, it includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes.
The Observatory Center opened in spring 2013 next to the Equestrian Center. The dome has 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.
In 2018, Liberty University opened a $3.2 million on-campus shooting range to train students to protect themselves against shooters and terrorists.
Libraries and museums
Jerry Falwell Library
The four-story, 170,000-square-foot Jerry Falwell Library opened in January 2014 with more than 250,000 items and room for another 170,000. They are accessible via a robot-assisted storage and retrieval system, which locates requested items within a large storage room and delivers them to the front desk. There are 150 public computers throughout the building for electronic archive research. The library has group study rooms, writable walls, balconies, terraces, and a vegetative roof. At its entrance stands a 24-foot media wall, powered by three Microsoft Kinect units and integrated using a custom program, that allows visitors to scroll through university news, browse pictures contributed from students, and learn about upcoming university events.
The $50 million library is part of a larger $500 million building and expansion plan announced by Liberty University.
National Civil War Chaplains Museum
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." 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.
The 1.7-acre (0.69 ha) estate was purchased by Liberty University in the late 1970s to be the headquarters of the university administration. It housed the main office of university founder Jerry Falwell, who died at his desk on May 15, 2007. 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 is now largely a tourist site, with Falwell's office preserved in its 2007 condition and the upstairs section of the mansion converted to a bed and breakfast for Liberty University guests.
Liberty Natatorium is 75,000 square feet and contains a 9-lane Olympic-size swimming pool as well as a diving well 17-feet deep and fitted with 1-meter and 3-meter springboards and 10-meter, 7.5-meter, 5-meter, 3-meter, and 1-meter diving platforms. The inaugural competitive swimming event held in the swimming pool was the 2018 TYR Junior National Cup in March 2018. In 2020, one of the diving platforms collapsed for an unknown reason. Since its opening there have also been facility issues in regards to the timing system used in competitive swimming events.
Governance and leadership
The university is governed by a 30-member board of trustees that includes Jonathan Falwell, the son and brother (respectively) of the two former university presidents. Additionally, two ministers serve as Trustee Emeriti. Unlike most other research universities, faculty (outside the law school) are not offered tenure, giving them less influence in governing the university than is common.
Jerry Prevo is the university's president. He formerly served as the chair of the board of trustees and was appointed president after the son of the university's founder, Jerry Falwell, Jr., resigned from his position as president in 2020.
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 is named after Senator Jesse Helms.
Rawlings School of Divinity
The Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity (formerly Liberty Divinity School) was founded in 1973. The Rawlings School of Divinity currently offers 44 bachelor's degrees, 44 master's degrees, and 14 doctorate degrees. Many programs are on campus only, while others are available online. It is housed in the Freedom Tower.
School of Aeronautics
Liberty offers 11 bachelor's degrees in aeronautics from professional pilot to UAS. Liberty's School of Aeronautics currently has over 1,200 students worldwide. Liberty has partnered with various airlines (American Eagle, Piedmont Airlines and Wayman Aviation) to alleviate pilot shortages. 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 National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON National Competition. In addition, the team captured the American Airlines Safety Award for the third year in a row.
School of Behavioral Sciences
The School of Behavioral Sciences includes the following four departments: Community Care & Counseling, Counselor Education & Family Studies, Psychology, and Social Work. The School of Behavioral Sciences has an acceptance rate of 38%. The Community Care & Counseling department offers 28 master's degrees and 4 doctoral degrees. The Counselor Education & Family Studies department offers 5 master's degrees and 1 doctoral degree. The Psychology department offers 2 Associate degrees, 14 bachelor's degrees, 6 master's degrees, and 6 doctoral degrees. The Social Work department offers 1 bachelor's degree. The dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences is Kenyon C. Knapp.
School of Business
Liberty University's School of Business offers 46 bachelor's, 67 master's, and 14 doctoral degrees. Liberty's school of business is ACBSP accredited. As of the Summer of 2019, the School of Business is nearing completion on a new 78,000 sq. ft. business building.
School of Communication & the Arts
The School of Communication & the Arts includes five departments: Cinematic Arts, Digital Media and Journalism, Strategic and Personal Communication, Studio & Digital Arts, and Theatre Arts. There are over 12,000 residential and online students enrolled in this school.
Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center
Liberty University offers a Bachelor of Science in Cinematic Arts Degree, which is based in the new Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center (ZGCAC). In Spring 2018, the ZGCAC collaborated with an outside studio to produce a feature film about President Donald Trump named The Trump Prophecy (2018).
School of Education
The School of Education currently enrolls 4,441 students.
School of Engineering
Liberty's School of Engineering offers degrees in computer engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrial & systems engineering, and mechanical engineering. The School of Engineering is accredited through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). In 2017, Liberty bought The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) facility in Bedford, Virginia.
School of Law
Liberty University School of Law has an employment rate of 82% for the Class of 2018 obtained full-time, bar passage or JD-required employment nine months after graduation according to ABA-required disclosures. The law school has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 2010. Liberty's school of law had a 100% pass rate on the February, 2019, administration of the Virginia Bar Exam. This pass rate was tied with the University of Virginia School of Law for the highest in the state.
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. The School of Music offers 32 bachelor's degrees, 15 master's degrees, and 1 doctoral degree.
College of Applied Studies and Academic Success
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.
According to the College Scorecard, Liberty University has a graduation rate of 36%. Median salary after attending ranges from $15,695 (AA in Teacher Education) to $72,022 (Electrical Engineering). Of those repaying student loans two years after entering repayment, 26% were in forbearance, 25% were not making progress, 14% were making progress, 14 percent were in deferment, 9% defaulted, 5% were paid in full, 5% were delinquent, and 2% had their loans discharged.
Liberty University is ranked #289–389 in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of "National Universities".It was also tied for 340th place out of 388 schools for social mobility. LU is ranked 391 out of 391 schools in the Washington Monthly.
Liberty is among the ten colleges that enrolled the most undergraduates in fall 2018 according to US News. When including online students, Liberty enrolled more students than any university in the United States as of 2018.
Liberty has an endowment of $1.71 billion, the 68th largest in the U.S.
Liberty is consistently ranked as the "Most Conservative College in America" by Niche and various other publications. Niche also ranks Liberty as the #5 best 'Online College in America' and as having the #5 best 'College Campus in America'. Its college campus is ranked as one of the 10 largest college campuses in the U.S., with over 7,000 acres. Liberty has also been ranked one of the ten most conservative colleges in the U.S. by Young America's Foundation.
Mandatory Christian community service of 20 hours a semester (CSER)
A dress code for classes
In 2017, the school invited Ray Rice, who had been videotaped beating his fiancée three years earlier, to give a lecture on domestic violence; members of the school said they had to forgive him. In 2021, a dozen anonymous women sued the school, charging that it failed to curb domestic violence and sexual assault on campus. A 2021 ProPublica investigation found that "an ethos of sexual purity, as embodied by the Liberty Way, has led to school officials discouraging, dismissing and even blaming female students who have tried to come forward with claims of sexual assault." Employees and students have been arrested for possession of child sexual abuse material.
In fall 2017, the acceptance rate for new first-time, full-time students entering Liberty's resident program was 30%. In 2011, the overall acceptance rate, which includes online students, was 51 percent.
As of 2021, the residential student body is 74% White, 5% Latino, 4% Black, 3% two or more races, and 2% Asian or Pacific Islander, less than 1% Native American, and 7% "other". Its male-to-female ratio is 45% to 54%.
Including online students, Liberty's undergrad population in 2017 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. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., are represented along with 86 countries. The online male-to-female ratio is 40% to 60%. More than 30,000 military students and over 850 international students attend Liberty.
Liberty ranks 174th out of 2,475 schools in overall diversity, 94th out of 3,012 schools in age diversity, and 82nd out of 2,525 schools in location diversity.
As of 2010[update], when including online students, LU was the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world. As of 2013[update], LU was the largest private non-profit university in the United States. In terms of combined traditional and distance learning students, Liberty University is the 7th-largest four-year university, and the largest university in Virginia.
Under Liberty's honor code, sexual relations are only permitted in a Biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman. Students at the university have criticized the university for being unwelcoming to LGBT students. Campus Pride, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights on college campuses, listed Liberty University as one of the worst universities for LGBT students. Falwell Jr. said the university does not have an anti-gay bias, and some gay students have defended the university. However, the school has forced students to attend gay conversion therapy.
In 2015, Liberty University denied the discounted tuition to same-sex and trans spouses of military personnel that it offered to heterosexual military couples. In 2016, the university ordered a version of a psychology textbook that omitted sections with LGBT content.
The school says it does not engage in unlawful discrimination or harassment because of race, color, ancestry, religion, age, sex, national origin, pregnancy or childbirth, disability or military veteran status. But it "reserves its right to discriminate on the basis of religion to the extent that applicable law respects its right to act in furtherance of its religious objectives."
The Liberty University honor code forbids students to be alone with a member of the opposite sex "at an off-campus residence" or to have premarital sex anywhere. Students may not consume alcohol or tobacco. In 2015, Liberty revised the code to give students the freedom to watch rated "R" movies and to play video games rated "M". In 2017, the curfew policy was changed to permit students age 20 and over to sign out and stay out past curfew. In 2018, the administration rejected a resolution from the student government that would have allowed off-campus drinking, "profane language" and the use of tobacco.
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 people.
Residential students at Liberty are required to attend Convocation at the Vines Center twice per week, though they may skip once per semester if they receive permission from student leaders.
Liberty University students are allowed to possess guns in the on-campus dorms.
Clubs and organizations
Liberty University LaHaye Student Union building
According to Liberty's website, there are over 100 registered clubs on campus.
Speech and debate
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. 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. 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." 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.
In 2017, Will Young, the former editor of the college's student newspaper, the Champion, recalled his experiences in a lengthy Washington Post article. In his first week in that role, he had been rebuked for attempting to get the campus's police blotter, he wrote, and the administration regularly overrode the student editors' decisions. There was, he claimed, "an infrastructure of thought-control that Falwell and his lieutenants [had] introduced into every aspect of Liberty University life" since 2016. Some sources Young spoke to believed the university installed spyware on the laptops they were issued. Student journalists became so frustrated that they launched an independent newspaper, the Lynchburg Torch, to cover stories the administration tried to suppress.
The university regularly competes for the Sasser Cup, the Big South's trophy for the university that has the best sports program among the member institutions. Liberty has won the Sasser Cup ten times, the most in the Big South. In 2012, Liberty became the first Big South school to win five consecutive Sasser Cups. Liberty has a gun range on campus.
The team used Lynchburg's City Stadium as their home stadium until October 21, 1989, when the Flames played their first home game at Williams Stadium in front of 12,750 fans. Upgrades to the stadium increased capacity from 12,000 to 19,200 attendees and added luxury suites, a Club level, and a media area. Another expansion increased seating to 25,000. When a part of the FCS, Liberty ranked in the top 10 in the country in home attendance. In 2019, the Flames won the Cure Bowl against Georgia Southern, 23–16. The Flames are coached by Hugh Freeze.
Liberty University's basketball Vines Center can house up to 9,547 spectators for its games. Several members of the Liberty men's basketball (Liberty Flames basketball) team have been recruited to the NBA. 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."
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. It was their first NCAA tournament win in school history.
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. 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. Several Liberty Flames baseball players were drafted during the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. Local stations air some games. Some games have aired nationally on ESPNU.
Liberty University has men's and women's club ice hockey teams. Men's hockey started in 1985 when students at Liberty organized a team to compete against surrounding colleges and clubs 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. In 2006, Liberty University opened the 3,000-seat LaHaye Ice Center, a gift from Dr. Timothy and Beverly LaHaye. 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. Currently, Liberty University has Division I, II, and III men's teams and Division I and II women's teams. The men's Division I team is coached by Kirk Handy, while the women's Division I team is coached by Chris Lowes.
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.
Liberty University Online
Online students constitute the overwhelming majority of the university's students and revenue, "subsidizing the university" and making them "a killing", according to faculty members, despite the "steep drop-off in quality from the traditional college to the online courses." Critics have argued that the online division subsidizes campus resources, such as the ski resort and gun range, and that online enrollment is run in a boiler room fashion. Online instructors are mainly engaged in answering emails and grading rather than creating and delivering content.
Liberty University has an Internet education component called Liberty University Online; also known as LU Online or LUO. which provides degrees from associate's level to doctorate.
Finances, marketing, and recruitment
The initials of Liberty University, on Candler Mountain, as viewed from near campus
In its early years, the university was held afloat financially by major donors. In 1987, Liberty University's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was formally recognized by the IRS.
In the 1990s, the debt-saddled university was placed on probation several times by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to heavy debt. In 1990, the university owed $110 million; in 1996, it owed $40 million. In 1994, the university received $3.5 million through Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Women’s Federation for World Peace.
In 2006, the university had net assets—cash, property, investments and other holdings—of roughly $100 million. At the start of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s presidency in 2007, the university listed $259 million in assets. Five years later, in May 2012, Falwell Jr. said the total had risen to $1 billion, thanks to proceeds from its online learning program and from accelerated facility expansion.
In December 2010, Liberty sold $120 million in facilities bonds to finance expansion. It sold an additional $100 million in taxable bonds in January 2012 to help finance $225.2 million of planned capital projects around the campus over the next five years. The bond offering was part of Liberty University's campus transformation plan which included 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".
In March 2017, Falwell Jr. said that the university's endowment stood 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.
According to a 2018 report by The New York Times, most of Liberty University's revenue comes from taxpayer-funded sources.
In 2019, Falwell Jr. was accused of using the university for his family's financial benefit. Staff members said the university has funneled tuition money into real estate investments that benefit friends and family of the Falwells, including a shopping mall, owned by the university and managed by Falwell's son Trey, a university vice president. Falwell responded to the accusations by asserting that the FBI would investigate a "criminal conspiracy" in which individuals stole university property and shared it with reporters in an effort to damage his reputation.
Marketing and recruitment practices
In 2018, ProPublica and the New York Times reported that Liberty University students were sixth in terms of receiving federal aid for the year 2017. Most of Liberty University's revenue came from taxpayer-funded sources. ProPublica/New York Times reported that each of the university's 300 salespeople were pressured to enroll up to eight students per day. A division of 60 salespeople targeted members of the military specifically because they had greater access to federal tuition assistance. The university's salespeople were instructed to make the university appear more affordable by describing the tuition costs per credits rather than per course. The salespeople were 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. According to a former employee, the university accepts any student with a grade point average above 0.5 (equivalent to a D-minus).
In 2010, students 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. 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. Campus officials estimated the total received in 2013 at $775 million. 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. Falwell Jr. said that the decision to block the newspaper was unrelated to content published in the paper.
Student loans and defaults
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. Liberty University spends far less on instruction than traditional private universities, for-profit colleges and other nonprofit religious colleges.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. The online division at the Liberty University is a significant revenue source for the university.
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.
Beliefs and values
Liberty University is a conservative Evangelical college which is reflected in its honor code and other policies. The university teaches creationism alongside the science of evolutionary biology.
The university's former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., was accused of nepotism, racism, and alcohol use contravening Baptist teaching on teetotalism. Falwell and his wife Rebecca were involved in a number of sex scandals. These eventually led to his resignation on August 24, 2020.
Standing for Freedom Center
In November 2019, Liberty and Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA launched a think tank subsidiary called the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty. The think tank hired Trump attorney Jenna Ellis and Trump surrogate Sebastian Gorka as fellows and paid for political Facebook ads promoting Trump and other Republican candidates during the 2020 election campaign.
In March 2021, the university renamed the organization the "Standing for Freedom Center", having chosen not to renew Kirk's contract several months earlier.
Liberty University has been described as a "stage of choice in Republican presidential politics", and a "pilgrimage site for GOP candidates." According to The Washington Post, Republican candidates are drawn to the university because it is viewed as a "bastion of the Christian right".Ronald Reagan's close relationship with the university gave it significant publicity in its early years. In 1990, 41st U.S presidentGeorge H.W. Bush was the first sitting U.S. president to speak at Liberty's commencement. In 1996, U.S. Supreme Court justiceClarence Thomas gave the commencement address at Liberty University.
In a December 5, 2015, convocation speech, President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged the student body to obtain concealed handgun permits. 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." 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 Bernardino attack, not all Muslims.
Links to Donald Trump
Jerry Falwell Jr.'s uncritical support for President Donald Trump has been characterized as a repudiation of Christian values. 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. 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. 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.
In 2016, a student editor said that an opinion column critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was censored by Falwell. The column was written after lewd comments made by Trump on an Access Hollywood tape were made public. Other articles in the student newspaper which mentioned Trump were reportedly spiked by faculty members. 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. 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.
Trump twice spoke at Liberty University's Convocation, in 2012 and 2016. President Trump was the keynote speaker at the Liberty University commencement in May 2017 where he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Jerry Falwell commended Trump for "bombing those in the Middle East who persecute and kill Christians," and that Trump had "proved that he is a man of his word.”
Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University's commencement ceremony in 2017
Some students protested when President Trump criticized both white supremacists and counter-protesters after the August 2017 Charlottesville rally where three people died and 33 were injured. Following Trump's remarks, Falwell said that he was "so proud" of Trump for his "bold truthful" statement on the tragedy. A number of students returned their diplomas to Liberty University and called on the university to disavow Trump's remarks. The students argued that Trump's remarks were "incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness."
In 2018, some Liberty students went to Washington, D.C., to support President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
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 was shown in select cinemas in October 2018.
^ abParry, Robert. [read://https_www.latimes.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.latimes.com%2Farchives%2Fla-xpm-1997-nov-16-op-54375-story.html "The GOP's Own Asian Connection: Rev. Moon"]. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
^Barron's Profiles of American Colleges, 26th Edition (Barron's 2005). This comprehensive guide provides an index of college majors, admissions requirements, tuition and financial, student-faculty ratios, extra-curricular activities and campus life for more than 1650 schools