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Liberty University enrollment tops 50,000

When the late Rev. Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University in 1971, he set a goal of enrolling 50,000 students and building "the greatest Christian school in the world."

Twenty-nine years later, that goal has been met, although not perhaps in the way Falwell envisioned.

At the start of the spring semester last month, enrollment totaled 57,371 at the Lynchburg school. The twist: 45,000 of those students are learning online.

Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor and president, said his father's dying vision for Liberty in spring 2007 was to enroll 25,000 students on campus and 25,000 online.
"He revised the vision slightly due to technological advances in education delivery methods," the younger Falwell said in a release.

Enrollment at Liberty has nearly doubled since May 2008, with most of the growth in online students. To gather them all in once place, Falwell said, "we'd have to rent out Dodgers Stadium."

Liberty now says it's the world's largest Christian university.

I went to federal data to seek a list of the largest colleges. I found several with total 12-month enrollment exceeding 50,000, and I'll list the top 10 here. Bear in mind, the list is a couple years old, and I am no expert in manipulating federal data. A list on Wikipedia looks somewhat different.

1. University of Phoenix-Online Campus, 413,716
2. Miami Dade College, 89,563
3. Arizona State University, 72,812
4. Houston Community College System, 71,283
5. Lone Star College System, TX, 66,748
6. Northern Virginia Community College, 64,454
7. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities,63,716
8. Ohio State University-Main Campus, 61,455
9. Strayer University, Washington DC, 60,555
10. University of Florida, 60,140

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By Daniel de Vise  |  February 19, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions , Marketing , Online  | Tags: Liberty University, Online education, admissions  
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It terrifies me that 50k people a year pay to buy into Falwell's brand of hate driven rhetoric.

Posted by: reiflame1 | February 19, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Congrats, you have 50,000 students earning a degree I wouldn't use as a napkin.

Posted by: ravensfan20008 | February 19, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

And I thought a degree from UDC was worthless. An "online" degree from Liberty?


Posted by: Nosh1 | February 19, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

That's a whole lot of stupid and CRAZY!!

Posted by: PepperDr | February 19, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Four previous comments, and still no comments from a Tea Bagger?

Posted by: critter69 | February 20, 2010 4:35 AM | Report abuse

I used to live in Lynchburg near Liberty. We always had to roll up our windows when we drove past because they kept throwing diplomas in.

Posted by: truthman3 | February 20, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

And I thought a degree from UDC was worthless. An "online" degree from Liberty?


Posted by: Nosh1


It isn't worthless. It's a cash cow for Liberty University.

My collective readings, admittedly not extensive, all suggest that cheating in education is on the rise. I wonder what the % of cheaters is with on-line education. American Values 101: Winning is everything.

Posted by: James10 | February 20, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

the lynchburg noose and advance, the local fishwrap, reported today that lu took in $35.9 million for 13,129 students in pell grants in 2009-10.

Posted by: bnglfn | February 20, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

So what is the difference between online college and classroom college as far as the end result? Is all that matters the sheepskin or do you really end up learning more in the classroom? And how much more money do the colleges net from one method over the other?

Posted by: rjma1 | February 20, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

What's even MORE terrifying are all of the hateful comments that don't know what they're talking about.

I don't know how substantial a degree from LU is, but I'm guessing that lots of degrees out there are on parity. Sorry, but many similarly accredited schools use the same textbooks. Unless someone has actually studied at LU, they're not in a position to rate their programs.

For some reason, we've determined that a college degree is a box that everyone needs to get checked, regardless of occupation. With the amazing increases in enrollment numbers, supported by government grants and loans, the quality overall has gone down. The online phenomenon hasn't helped, but there's no question that it's the wave of the future.

Why leave your house when you can get the same credential online?

Posted by: postfan1 | February 20, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Indeed. Folks who tear into Falwell and Liberty so hatefully seem completely oblivious to how completely they are first in line to fail their own litmus tests. Assuming such folks are college educated, perhaps this also explains LU's burgeoning enrollment. Maybe folks are looking for a little more intellectual integrity in a college education from what folks on this board seem to have gotten from the secular universities they attended.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | February 20, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

50,000 gullible, brain-washed idiots.

The world would be better off without them.

Posted by: kenk3 | February 20, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

You can't take seriously any "university" that teaches creationism in their biology courses. That's not science, and that's why a degree from Liberty is worthless.

Posted by: grant5 | February 20, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

How do you learn calc from the bible?

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | February 20, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Why all of this hate from liberals? To paraphrase pro-abortion folk..."If you don't like Liberty, don't go there."

Posted by: Raggs22 | February 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Raggs 22 wrote: Why all of this hate from liberals? To paraphrase pro-abortion folk..."If you don't like Liberty, don't go there."


Nobody has proposed banning attending Liberty University. The commenters are giving their opinion (some informed, some less so, I'm sure) about getting degrees from there. This is not a parallel to resisting attempts to legally forbid abortion. If right-to-lifers confined themselves to expressing opinions and moral exhortation I'd shake their hand and move on.

Now, I personally think that if you're teaching a class you call "biological science" but basing it on creationism rather than evolution, you could legitimately be sued for false advertising, but that's a different question.

Posted by: CharlesHoogstraten | February 20, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Liberty is a scary place. Men and women limited to their "mingling", no movies over PG rating, no dancing (didn't they dance in the bible though???), church services every day, and limited science education (only out of the bible). Its total cult brainwashing similar to how the Taliban teaches their youth -they know nothing but the Koran and are told to kill for it. Total insanity as there is no difference between Liberty U. and Islamist extremism.

Posted by: GenuineRisk | February 20, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

So a LU online grad applies for a job against a VT grad.

A LU online grad applies for a job against a UVA grad.

A LU online grad applies for a job against a JMU grad.

A LU online grad applies for a job against a W&M grad.

A LU online grad applies for a job against a Wash%Lee grad.

A LU online grad applies for a job against a Mary Wash grad.

Hmm, which would you hire?

To all you Liberty defenders don't you realize that companies and federal agencies have list of schools to hire from and those to pass on. And after close to 40 years both in private industry and government I can tell you that Liberty has never been on the hire list.

Posted by: Palmyra1 | February 20, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Palmyra1-- Regents University (Pat Robertson's project) grads fared much better than LU when it came to getting jobs with the Feds. Monica Goodling, at 33, was special aide to AG Gonzalez, and right in the middle of the US Attorney scandal. She attended Messiah College and went to law school at Regents. Later, the DOJ concluded that she had illegally applied a political litmus test to applicants for civil service positions.
These people are dangerous.

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | February 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The ayatollah Jerry Falwell has certainly done well for himself with his madrasah for radical, extremist Christians. He's fabulously rich.

Posted by: jjedif | February 20, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not "kids" or "teens", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. The most conservative university in the Mid-Atlantic has over 50,000 students but non-religious universities are also located in Virginia to challenge narrowed minded ideology put into the cirriculum from Liberty Unversity.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | February 20, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Not only are the Pell Grants moneymakers for these guys, they also get about $3K from the Virginia state treasury for every VA resident they admit (TAG grant). Nice, huh?

Posted by: AHappyWarrior | February 23, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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