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Liberty University

Liberty University
Liberty University seal.svg
Former names
Lynchburg Baptist College
Liberty Baptist College
MottoKnowledge Aflame[1]
TypePrivate
Established1971
Academic affiliation
Endowment$1.29 billion[2]
PresidentJerry Falwell Jr.
Academic staff
2,500
Students110,000+[3]
15,000+ (residential)
100,000+ (online)
Undergraduates50,000+[4]
Postgraduates50,000+[5]
LocationLynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
CampusSuburban
7,000 acres (28 km2)
ColorsRed, Blue[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
Liberty University logo.svg

Liberty University (LU), also referred to as Liberty, is a private, non-profit Christian research university located in Lynchburg, Virginia, United States.[7]

Liberty 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.[8][9] 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.[10] The school consists of 17 colleges, including a school of medicine and a school of law. It offers 297 bachelors, 319 masters, and 32 doctoral areas of study.[11] 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 Independent, while their other sports teams compete in either the Atlantic Sun Conference or Big East Conference. Liberty's athletes have won a total of six individual national championships.[5]

Studies at the school have a Christian orientation, with three required Bible-studies classes in the first year for undergraduate students.[12] The school's honor code, called the "Liberty Way", prohibits premarital sex and private interactions alone between members of the opposite sex.[13][14] Described as a "bastion of the Christian right" in American politics, the university plays a prominent role in Republican politics.[15]

History and mission

Founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, the university began as Lynchburg Baptist College.[16] 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.[16][17]

Liberty University's mission statement describes the school as a Christian academic community, with the mission and aim of emphasizing both the intellectual and spiritual development of the its students.[18] Students are held to a standard referred to by the university as The Liberty Way, a code of conduct.[19] 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.[20][21]

In its early years, the university was held afloat financially by major donors.[22] The university was placed on probation multiple times in the 1990s by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to heavy debt loads.[22] In 1990, the university's debt totaled $110 million; in 1996, it totaled $40 million.[22] As of 2017 the university's endowment stands at more than $1 billion and gross assets are in excess of $2 billion.[23]

In 1985, the university began a distance learning program by mailing VHS tapes to students[22] 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.[22]

Campus

DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University
Liberty University Vines Center

Main, East and North campuses

Liberty University's Campus East housing complex consists of 30 multi-story apartment style dormitories, the last six of which were completed in 2007. Rooms in these dormitories have their own kitchens, living room and private baths. David's Place, a clubhouse, offers a swimming pool, billiards room, game room, a private theater, and a bistro styled restaurant.[24]

The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) LaHaye Student Center, has a lounge, cafe, multi-purpose rooms, and athletic facilities.[25] The adjacent Tilley Center has various social and recreational facilities. Other projects include a 60-mile (97 km) mountain bike trail system, a motocross facility, paintball fields, 3D archery range, intramural sports program and club sports, including lacrosse and ice hockey, which plays in an ice rink donated by Dr. Tim and Beverly LaHaye, and a new indoor soccer facility.[citation needed]

During the spring of 2007, a secondary practice facility for the Liberty volleyball program was opened as part of a new, on-campus training complex. The existing $750,000 facility on Campus East houses the volleyball coaches' offices and a team room, and serves as the team's practice facility whenever the Vines Center and Schilling Center are unavailable.[26]

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.[27] The Barrick-Falwell Lodge sits at the bottom of the Snowflex ski slope and offers a full-service rental shop for skiing and snowboarding equipment, as well as a concessions stand.[28]

On September 24, 2010, Liberty opened the Tower Theater, with seating for up to 640 people. For the 2010–11 theater season, the Theater Department opened with Hairspray, and closed in spring 2011 with The Phantom of the Opera. The theatre includes balcony seating, an orchestra pit, catwalks, a fly tower, a box office and 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of support area.[29] The tower was originally part of a cell phone plant. BCWH Architects, which designed the adaptation of the tower as a theatre, won first place at the ASID's annual IDEAs for the Contract Institutional Category.[30]

In August 2011, Liberty announced a $120 million campus expansion. The expansion includes more dorms, greener space, and more academic buildings allowing the campus to hold 20,000 resident students.[31]

In January 2012, the Department of Theatre Arts announced the formation of a professional theater company to occupy the Tower Theater. The Alluvion Stage Company will[when?] hire professional actors to perform alongside the students, and the sets and costumes will meet professional standards.[32]

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.[33]

The Liberty University Equestrian Center is home to Liberty Hunter and Western Equestrian teams, as well as student boarders and Kinesiology riding classes. Three main barns hold 52 permanent horse stalls and 5 indoor wash stalls with hot water. Altogether, the Liberty Equestrian Center is nearly 500 acres with 80 stalls, about 140 acres of turnout and 72,000 square feet of high tech riding surface. Liberty's equestrian teams have also won various championships such as 2017 IHSA Regional Champion Hunter Seat Team, 2017 IHSA Regional Cacchione Cup, and 2017 Tournament of Champions Hunter Medal.[34][35][36]

In Summer 2016, two new dorm buildings were completed on Main Campus.[37] The rooms include a mini-fridge and microwave, as well as a private bathroom. There is a laundry room and common (or lounge) room on each floor.[38] Student Housing currently resides in Commons II.[39]

The Freedom Tower was completed in February 2018. At 275 feet, it is the tallest building in Lynchburg.

Liberty completed its new Freedom Tower in February 2018; it is the tallest building in Lynchburg.[40] The tower includes Liberty's replica of the Liberty Bell, which was first shown at the celebration of America's bicentennial in 1976 and Liberty's renaming from Lynchburg Baptist College to Liberty Baptist College and will be housed in the new structure along with twenty-four other bells.[41]

DeMoss Hall, the main academic building on the campus, had an expansion completed in the Fall of 2016. The new expansion, the Montview Student Union[42] was built onto the backside of the current building, houses several amenities for students. It has a grand entryway, much like the front of the current building does. The basement level will feature an eight-lane bowling alley, free to on-campus students. The first floor has several new on-campus dining options, including a convenience store, Mediterranean food, a burger place, Asian food, a new pizza place, and a new teahouse. The second floor features a game area with billiards and various game consoles. The third floor primarily has meeting rooms for several clubs, including the Student Government Association. It also has a large event space that seats about 700 people.[43][44] There will be a bridge connecting the new Student Center and the Freedom Tower. when the Tower is finished[45] The dining facility is operated by Sodexo America, and the CEO of that company, along with other top executives of the company, were present for the food court's grand opening.[42]

Liberty completed its new $29 million indoor practice facility in mid-2017.[46] The 95,000 square-foot structure provides the Flames a full-size AstroTurf indoor football practice field, plus end zones, with a 70-foot ceiling clearance allowing for special teams drills. Located at the northeast end of Williams Stadium, the facility towers over the adjacent Football Operations Center and is nearly as tall as the five-story Williams Stadium Tower, added in 2010. It features plenty of glass in its construction, allowing for natural lighting, as well as a breezeway exit onto Liberty's outdoor practice field, also covered with AstroTurf.[46]

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.[47] The new gun range, known as the Liberty Mountain Gun Club, was completed and opened in early 2018. The Liberty Mountain Gun Club has venues for all Olympic shooting sports and a new competitive shooting team was formed. The shooting range is open to students and the public, who have to first complete a free firearms safety course through the Liberty University Police Department.[48][49]

Renovation of the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center was completed in summer 2017. Hydaway provides students with the opportunity to enjoy an array of recreational activities, such as: swimming, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing, ATV riding, zip lining, standup paddleboarding (SUP) and kayaking. Open from sunrise to sunset, Hydaway offers an 8-acre lake and a beach area. Hydaway Lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie for catch-and-release by students. Hydaway also offers a 12 site campground and a 50-mile trail system.[50]

Liberty University's Center for Music & Worship is home to the Miss Virginia beauty competition which sends the winner of the state to represent it in the Miss America Pageant.[51][52]

In November 2017, Liberty University completed the 60,000-square-foot Liberty Athletics Center (LAC). Approximately one-third of the space is reserved for academic offices, tutoring centers, a classroom and numerous academic enhancement areas. Designed to be the central hub for Liberty Athletics, the facility includes an Olympic sports weight room and an athletics training facility for Liberty's NCAA Division I student-athletes. The three-story building also houses an equipment room.[53]

Libraries and museums

Integrated Learning Resource Center

The Integrated Learning Resource Center (ILRC) has three components: the Curriculum Library, Computer Labs, and Media Services. The library contains the following: around 250,000 paper volumes, over 150,000 e-books, more than 97,000 unique electronic and print periodical titles, and more than 200 electronic databases.[54] Students have access to the ILRC. Freshmen have a mandatory session in the Curriculum Library to assess basic research skills.[54] Education students can make use of textbooks and teaching material. DVDs, CDs, and videos are available for audio visual use.[55] Sixteen classroom labs contain more than 470 computers, with more than 350 computers in open spaces, and over 250 computers throughout the campus. All of these computers have a high-speed internet connection.[54] Specific tutor sessions are available and posted at the ILRC.[56] Media Services includes classroom technical support, Smart Board support, basic video duplication, and equipment for classroom projects.[57]

Liberty University students are provided academic counseling and support services through the Center for Academic Support and Advising Services (CASAS). CASAS contains new student orientation support, professional academic advising, continuing education counseling, tutoring and testing services, and career placement services.[58] A component of CASAS is the Bruckner Learning Center, which seeks to "provide University-wide academic support services for all students and faculty in general and special needs students in particular".[59] The Bruckner Learning Center offers courses in transitioning from high school to college, college learning strategies, advanced reading and vocabulary development, and developmental math to help students succeed in the college environment. Additionally, in 2010, Liberty University opened the Osborne Assistive Learning Technology Center in the A. Pierre Guillermin Library, which is a learning and testing center for special needs students. The lab works in with the Bruckner Learning Center and contains assistive software, such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text programs for visually impaired or reading disabled students.[60]

Jerry Falwell Library

In January 2014, Liberty University opened the new Jerry Falwell Library. The four-story, 170,000-square-foot building is located behind the Vines Center.[61] 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.[62] The $50 million library is part of a larger $500 million building and expansion plan announced by Liberty University.[63][64]

National Civil War Chaplains Museum

The National Civil War Chaplains Museum contains exhibits of 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."[65] 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."[68]

In September 2012, Liberty University hosted the 16th annual Civil War Seminar. Titled "1862-The Rise of Lee and Grant", the seminar featured presentations on many different Civil War issues, highlighted by lectures on Grant's Mississippi and Vicksburg Campaigns and Lee's Seven Days' Campaign. The event also featured an online simulation of the Battle of Antietam.[69]

Carter Glass Mansion

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.[70] 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.[70] 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.[71]

Academics

Liberty University Colleges and Schools[72]
College/school

Aeronautics
Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASA)
Arts and Sciences
Behavioral Sciences
Business
Communication and Digital Content
Divinity
Education
Engineering and Computational Sciences
Health Sciences
General Studies
Government
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.[73] There are 144 graduate programs and 4 doctoral programs offered on campus.[73]

Liberty is classified as a doctoral research university with moderate research activity by the Carnegie Classification.[74]

Liberty 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.[75][76]

Center for Law and Government

In 2017 Liberty announced its new Center for Law and Government will be led by former U.S. Representative Robert Hurt. It will work with both the Liberty University School of Law and the Jesse Helms School of Government. Future plans include a new building including an arena, lecture halls, and classrooms.[77] 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%.[78] In January, 2009, the controversial former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline became a professor at Liberty's School of Law.[79]

Rawlings School of Divinity

The Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity (formerly Liberty Divinity School) was founded in 1973 and offers various degrees for both academic and vocational endeavors. Many programs are on campus only, while others are available online.[80]

Center for Ministry Training

The Center for Ministry Training is the practical experience requirement for Liberty University School of Divinity students. The requirements are much like internships for other programs with a religious aspect involved in the experience. Specifically, the CMT includes Ministry Impact and Supervised Field Ministry Experience (SFME). Ministry Impact asks a Ministry Specialist to speak on practical aspects of ministry in the world today. Additionally, "[t]he main requirement for completing SFME is completing a minimum of 40 hours of field ministry during each semester."[81][82][83]

Technical Studies and Trades

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, and let graduates pursue an apprenticeship after completion.[84]

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).[85] Subjects include: producing, directing, screenwriting, cinematography, production design, post-production, general production, documentary, and narrative. Around $1.5 million was spent on professional equipment.[86]

In the fall semester of 2012, 40 students were accepted as the inaugural class to major in Cinematic Arts. The program has expanded to 160 students. In the first year, students write a screenplay, and produce and direct a short film.[86]

In Spring 2018, the ZGCAC collaborated with an outside studio to produce a feature film about President Donald Trump.[87][88]

College of Arts and Sciences

The Liberty University College of Arts and Sciences teaches young Earth creationism. Creationism, a pseudoscience, is taught alongside evolution as a science in biology and earth science classes.[89]

College of Osteopathic Medicine

In August 2014 Liberty University opened the college of osteopathic medicine, known as Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM).[90] The college is housed in a new 144,000-square-foot, $40 million building completed in 2014 next to Candler Mountain.[90][91] The college will feature a Christian faith-based curriculum consistent with Liberty University's mission statement in addition to the accepted curriculum expected of recognized accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine. The college received provisional accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association through the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation in 2013 and is eligible for full accreditation in 2018.[92] The college has secured long-term affiliations with Halifax Health, the Johnson Health Center, LifePoint, and a 30-year clinical clerkship and graduate medical education affiliation with Centra Health that includes a commitment of clinical rotations for 80 students per year.[90][93]

In July 2015 the college of osteopathic medicine opened Liberty Mountain Medical Group LLC, a primary care clinic serving the greater Lynchburg area. The clinic is staffed by licensed physicians from the college's professors as well as clinicians from Central Virginia Family Physicians. The clinic will offer a range of services such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and sports medicine, as well as medical labs and x-ray machines. The clinic is able to serve approximately 180 patients daily. The clinic will also provide opportunities for students of the college to gain access to and participate in the care of patients as well as shadow specialists.[94][95][96]

The school is a culmination of over 4 years of planning, starting with a $12 million grant sanctioned by the Virginia Tobacco Commission and matched by Liberty University to build a college of osteopathic medicine and expand the health sciences school.[97][98] This grant is the second largest ever authorized to a medical school by the Virginia Tobacco Commission.[97]

School of Business

In 2016, Liberty announced a new 78,000-square-foot, three-story academic building. The new School of Business facility will complement the classical Jeffersonian architecture of Liberty's main campus, such as the nearby DeMoss Hall. It will feature a number of innovative spaces, including stock trading simulation rooms with ticker boards, information technology labs, networking and data centers, a 500-seat auditorium, and the Center for Entrepreneurship, which will serve both the campus and local communities.[99]

Liberty also partnered with the Charlotte, N.C.-based Hendrick Automotive Group, the nation's largest privately held car dealership group, to establish an auto dealership management curriculum.[100]

School of Aeronautics

Liberty offers many degrees in Aeronautics from professional pilot to UAS [101] Liberty's drone program was ranked sixth in the nation.[102] Liberty has partnered with various airlines (American Eagle, Piedmont Airlines and Wayman Aviation) to alleviate pilot shortages [103][104][105]

School of Engineering

in 2017 Liberty bought The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) facility in Bedford, Virginia. The property was bought for $4.3 million with the goal of moving its School of Engineering to the facility. The goal is to become a major research university and for the university to work with companies in the energy sector, establishing a research-focused campus within the park that will lead to new technologies and create new business opportunities.[106]

School of Music

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 Center for Music and Performing Arts emphasizes music education and performance technique, while the Center for Music and Worship seeks to train skilled musicians as worship leaders and specialists within the Christian music industry. The school occupies a building opposite the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center. The building includes a fine arts auditorium for university and community use, and is part of Liberty University's campus transformation initiative.[107][108][109][110]

The building also includes a recording studio for the university's label, Liberty Music Group, which includes the formerly independent label Red Tie Music. In acquiring Red Tie, LMG planned to expand the label beyond its previous church-focused market by dividing into several "sub-labels" for different markets.[111]

Liberty University Online

Liberty University has an internet education component which is called LU Online, previously the Distance Learning Program (DLP). Prior to the launch of its online education component in 2009, Liberty University provided adult learning courses through the LU School of Lifelong Learning (LUSLLL) by way of its External Degree Program. The LUSLLL was Liberty University's fastest growing school at the time with Jerry Falwell forecasting in his 1997 autobiography an enrollment of 40,000 students in the early 21st Century, with the expectation of an addition 10,000 students studying on campus at the same time. Both expectations have been surpassed by current enrollment figures.[citation needed] Liberty's online component currently provides degrees from Associates level to Doctorate. The online school runs unilaterally with the semester program offered at Liberty University's campus. One difference with LU Online is that students take 16-week (full semester) classes for a few of their cataloged courses while the remainder are taken in 8-week subterms which are titled B, C, and D. These subterms provide the student with scheduling flexibility through shorter, slightly overlapping sessions. There is a separation at the 600-level and above at which courses are only offered in the B and D terms.[112] LU Online promotes teacher/student discourse through interactive online discussions and class size limits (capped at 25 students).[113] Liberty University reports that enrollment for their online program is six times greater than their residential enrollment, with about 80,000 of their 92,500 total students enrolled online.[114]

Rankings

University rankings
National
Forbes[115] 610
U.S. News & World Report[116] 231–300
Liberty University sponsors William Byron's #24 race car

Liberty University is ranked #231–300 (of 311 total) in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of "National Universities."[12] 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+.[117] In 2016, Liberty University ranked above the national average graduation rate of 42%, with 50% of Liberty students graduating within 6 years. This statistic includes the over 100,000 online student population.[118]

Liberty is consistently ranked as the 'Most Conservative College in America' by Niche and various other publications.[119][120][121] Niche also ranks Liberty as the #1 best 'Online College in America' and as having the #6 best 'College Campus in America'.[122] Its college campus is ranked as one of the 10 largest college campuses in the U.S., with over 7,000 acres.[123]

Liberty University was ranked by U.S. News & World Report in several categories for 2015:

Regional Universities (South) – 80th
Best Colleges for Veterans – 37th
Best Online Bachelor's Programs – 79th
Best Online MBA Programs – 93rd
Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA) – 61st
Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs – 18th
Best Online Graduate Education Programs – 112th
Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs – 56th[124]

Liberty has also been ranked one of the ten most conservative colleges in the U.S. by Young America's Foundation.[125]

In 2005, Barron's Profiles of American Colleges ranked LU as a "competitive" college, its fourth-highest of six ranks.[126][127]

Accreditation

Liberty was founded in 1971 and received Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation in 1980,[128] which was most recently reaffirmed in 2016.[129] 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.[130][131] Liberty has more than 60 accredited degree granting programs.[132] 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.[133] 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.[134] Liberty is also accredited by: Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET),[135] National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE),[135] Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE),[135] Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI),[136] National Association of Schools of Music (NASM),[137] Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE),[135] Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP),[135] Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP),[138] Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP),[139] and the Commission on Sport Management Education (COSMA)[140]

Student life

Demographics

The acceptance rate for new first-time, full-time students entering Liberty's resident program in Fall of 2014 was 20.2%.[141] Liberty's annual enrollment includes over 15,000 residential students and over 100,000 online students as of August 2016.[142][143][144]

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.[145] 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.[146] All 50 States and Washington DC are represented along with 86 countries.[147]

As of 2010, when including online students, LU was the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world.[148] As of 2013, LU was the largest private non-profit university in the United States.[8] In terms of combined traditional and distance learning students, Liberty University is the 7th largest four-year university, and the largest university in Virginia.[149]

Anti-LGBT stance

Liberty University prohibits transgender identities and prohibits sexual relations between same-sex couples (whether they are married or not).[150][151] Students at the university have criticized the university for being unwelcoming to LGBT students.[150] Campus Pride, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights on college campuses, listed Liberty University as one of the worst universities for LGBT students.[152] Falwell Jr. says the university does not have an anti-gay bias, and some gay students have defended the university.[150]

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.[153]

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.[154]

Honor code

The Liberty University honor code prohibits premarital sex, and attending dances.[13] Visiting members of the opposite sex alone is also prohibited.[14] Students are not allowed to consume alcohol or tobacco.[155] In 2015 Liberty revised the code to give students the freedom to watch rated "R" movies and to play video games rated "M".[156] In 2017 the curfew policy was changed to permit students age 20 and over to sign out and stay out past curfew.[157] In 2018 a bill was rejected that would have allowed off campus drinking, "foul language" and the use of tobacco.[158]

Convocation

Convocation at the Vines Center

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.[159]

Athletics

Williams Stadium

Liberty's athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Liberty Flames. They compete primarily in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Starting in 2018, the football team began competing in the FBS as an independent.[160] 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.[161] 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.[162] 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.[163] In 2012 Liberty became the first Big South school to win 5 consecutive Sasser Cups.[164][165]

Newly renovated Williams Stadium is home of the Liberty Flames football program. Started in 1973, the Liberty Flames Football 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.[166] Recent upgrades to the stadium include increased capacity from 12,000 to 19,200 attendees, luxury suites, a Club level and a new media area. Additional phases of stadium expansion will increase seating to 30,000.[167]

Liberty University is also notable for its basketball programs and its venue, the Vines Center, that can house up to 9,547 spectators for its games.[168] Several members of the Liberty men's basketball (Liberty Flames basketball) team have been recruited to the NBA.[169][170] 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."[171]

The Liberty Baseball Stadium, completed in June 2013 and home to Liberty Baseball, has been ranked No. 4 in best college ballpark experiences of 2015 by the Stadium Journey website.[172] 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.[173] Several Liberty Flames baseball players were drafted during the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. With their fan base ever growing, local stations are airing select games.[174] Some games have even been chosen to air nationally on ESPNU.[175]

Liberty University supports men's and women's club ice hockey teams. Men's hockey started in 1985[176] when students at Liberty self-organized a team to compete against surrounding colleges and clubs[177] 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.[178] In 2006, Liberty University opened the 3000-seat LaHaye Ice Center, which was a gift from Dr. Timothy and Beverly LaHaye.[179] 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[177] 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 5 club hockey teams.[176] The men's Division I team is coached by Kirk Handy,[177] while the women's Division I team is coached by Paul Bloomfield.[180]

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.[181]

Clubs and organizations

Liberty University LaHaye Student Union building

According to Liberty's website,[182] there are over 100 registered clubs on campus.

Speech and debate

Liberty's Inter-Collegiate policy debate program ranked number one overall for their division in the Championships at the National Debate Tournament in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011.[183][184][185][186][187][188] 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.[189] 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."[190]

Finances, marketing, and recruitment

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.[113][161] The valuation is a 10-fold increase since 2006.[113]

In December 2010, Liberty sold $120 million in facilities bonds, with the proceeds to be used to finance future expansion.[191] 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.[192] The bond offering is part of Liberty University's campus transformation plan[31] 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".[193][194]

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.[23]

Marketing and recruitment practices

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 sales people 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.[12]

According to a former employee, the university accepts any student with a grade point average above 0.5 (equivalent to a D-minus).[12] 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.[195]

Federal funding

Student financial aid is a big part of Liberty University's business model.[196][197] The students at Liberty University received approximately $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.[198][199] 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.[198] Campus officials estimated the total received in 2013 at $775 million.[200] 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.[201] Falwell Jr. said that the decision to block the newspaper was unrelated to content published in the paper.[202]

Student loans and defaults

Liberty University students have a higher rate of defaults within three years of completing their studies than the national average or students at other nonprofit colleges.[12][155] Liberty University spends far less on instruction than traditional private universities, for-profit colleges and other nonprofit religious colleges.[12]

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.[12] Liberty denies the assertion, stating that both residential and online programs offer high-quality education opportunities.[195] The online division at the Liberty University is a big revenue driver for the university.[203]

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.[203][204]

Politics

Influence

Liberty University has been described as a "stage of choice in Republican presidential politics",[15] and a "pilgrimage site for GOP candidates."[13] According to the Washington Post, Republican candidates are drawn to the university because it is seen as a "bastion of the Christian right".[15] Ronald Reagan's close relationship with the university gave it significant publicity in its early years.[13] In 1990, 41st U.S President George H.W. Bush was the first sitting U.S. president to speak at Liberty's commencement.[205] Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney have visited the campus.[12][16] Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson spoke at the university.[206] In 2017, President Donald J. Trump gave his first college commencement speech as sitting president at Liberty University.[207]

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.[208] Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, and Jesse Jackson have spoken there.[13][14] In 2018, former 39th US President Jimmy Carter gave the commencement speech.[209] A number of Democratic presidential candidates and politicians have rejected invitations to speak at LU.[13]

2015 concealed handguns remarks

In the December 5, 2015 convocation speech, President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged the student body to obtain concealed handgun permits.[210] 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."[210] 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.[210][211]

Links to Donald Trump

Trump's Presidential candidacy caused controversy at the university, as a number of students who disagreed with Trump protested the university's ties with Trump, and were critical of LU president Jerry Falwell, Jr., over his staunch support of Trump.[16][212] In 2016, a student editor said that an opinion column critical of then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump was censored by Falwell.[213][16][155][22] The column was written after lewd comments, made by Trump on an Access Hollywood tape, were made public.[213] Other articles in the student newspaper which mentioned Trump were reportedly spiked by faculty members.[214][215] 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.[216] Liberty University rescinded a speaking invitation of Jonathan Merritt, an alumnus of the school, after he criticized Liberty University, and expelled Christian author Jonathan Martin from campus due to his repeated criticisms of the university's affiliation with Trump.[216][217]

Some students protested when President Trump criticized both white supremacists and counter-protesters after the August 2017 Charlotesville march.[218] Following Trump's remarks, Falwell said that he was "so proud" of Trump for his "bold truthful" statement on the tragedy.[218] A number of students returned their diplomas to Liberty University and called on the university to disavow Trump's remarks.[218][219][220] The students argued that Trump's remarks were "incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness."[218] In 2018, some Liberty students went to Washington DC to support President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.[221]

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]

Notable alumni and associates

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