I’m a few days late with this news, and needn’t say much about how ridiculous this is, but last Thursday, Liberty University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, announced that its President, Jerry Falwell, Jr. would head up an “education task force” for President Tr*mp. (Fallwell, Jr. is the son of the notorious Jerry Falwell Senior, who founded Liberty in 1971.) That task force is apparently designed to “deregulate” higher education, rolling back some changes enacted by the Obama administration.
Now both Falwells were creationists, and Liberty University adheres to creationism. That is public knowledge, but it’s also supported by this tw**t showing one of Liberty’s textbooks.
It’s not clear whether Falwell, Jr. will have any input into school curricula, but, as the New York Times reports, being on the task force may constitute a conflict of interest for him, as Liberty University has four times more online students than students who actually attend the University physically, and many of these default on their loans. The task force, by loosening the regulations that require universities to disclose default rates and dismantling other federal laws, may benefit the reputation of Liberty, a school that appears to be even more of a scam than I thought:
[Liberty] enrolls about 14,000 students, most of whom are evangelical Christians, at its residential campus in Lynchburg, Va. But it also enrolls an additional 65,000 students online. Most colleges now have a mix of residential and online students, but it’s almost unheard-of to have four times as many online students as residential students.
Because internet courses are cheap to deliver at scale, the online division is a big revenue driver for Liberty, which brought in $591 million in tuition in 2013, against $470 million in expenses. Liberty is essentially a medium-size nonprofit college that owns a huge for-profit college.
. . . Liberty’s marketing and recruitment are driven by an 800-person telemarketing call center in a former Sears department store near the main campus.
Most of the tuition for Liberty’s online students comes from financial aid provided by the federal Department of Education, the same body that Mr. Falwell says is engaged in “overreaching regulation.”
In 2015, Liberty received $347 million from federal undergraduate grant and loan programs. Few other private nonprofit colleges receive anything like that sum. To put the amount in perspective, the highly regarded University of Virginia, a nearby state university, received $37 million from the same sources that year. Arizona State, the nation’s largest public university, received $169 million. Liberty’s considerable financial success — it has built a $1 billion cash reserve, and Mr. Falwell is paid more than $900,000 a year — was underwritten largely by the federal taxpayer.
Liberty also has a huge student loan default rate—about 1.5 times the national average—and although the “nonprofit” school pays no taxes, and is already exempt from some of the Obama regulations, rolling back those regulations will still make Liberty look better. And all that is beside the ignominy of having a fundamentalist Baptist creationist heading up an education task force.