Significant Online Program Growth for Liberty University

By Lillian Williams

“Liberty University’s  net assets headed for $1 billion, thanks to online.”

That’s a recent headline from The News & Advance, a daily newspaper in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Liberty Flames logo

Liberty Flames logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The News & Advance paper examined the IRS 990 tax forms of Liberty University, a Christian liberal arts institution located in Lynchburg, Va.  Liberty was founded in 1971 by evangelical fundamentalist, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.

The paper found that Liberty’s net assets increased fivefold in the past six years.  Net assets climbed from $150 million to $860 million–due to the growth of online programs.

The school has 12,500 residential students, but more than 82,000 online students. The online student population has nearly tripled in the past five years, according to the news report.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered Liberty’s commencement address on May 12.

About the online program, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said it’s exceeding goals. “Our online student body has a bigger population than the city of Lynchburg,” Falwell said, as quoted earlier in a June press release.

The school reached its first major milestone of 13,000 online students about six years ago in 2006, according to Chris Johnson, senior vice president for enrollment management. The next milestone was 25,000 students in 2008, Johnson said.

“We’ve grown so fast that we can’t spend it fast enough,” said Falwell, as quoted in the recent News & Advance article.  However, Falwell points to hard times in previous decades when the university struggled financially.

The newspaper noted that Liberty, a non-profit, must re-invest the money into the school. Liberty has embarked upon an ambitious construction program.

Read reporter Liz Barry’s article here.

Another News & Advance article described the inside of Liberty’s huge call center for the online program:

“From morning to night, the Liberty University Online call center in Lynchburg buzzes as an army of about 220 workers fields queries from prospective students across the U.S. and overseas.

Housed in Green Hall on Liberty’s main campus, the call center rivals the size of a football field and is packed with gray cubicles. It’s the nerve center for Liberty’s rapidly growing online program, and for countless students, it’s the first contact they’ll have with the university.”

The school’s website shows four types of degrees offered through the online program: Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines. Most online courses are eight-weeks long.  Some Spanish-language courses are offered.

It’s your turn. If you’re a student, or teacher, who has participated in Liberty’s online programs, or in an online program at another institution, we welcome your perceptions about the growing online sector of higher education. Or, if you are a scholar who has studied online programs, what are your thoughts? Post your comment below.

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