Liberty University No Longer Number One

The headline in RNS declared, “Liberty University is no longer the largest Christian university.” Liberty University is the bastard offspring of Jerry Falwell Sr., raised to prominence by Jerry Falwell Jr.. I hadn’t known it was the largest Christian university, dwarfing Notre Dame, Moody’s, etc., but it is credible. The domain of Christianity has often featured a race to the bottom. In the good old days, before it became subject to secular laws, the race often involved threats to convert or die.

The interesting thing is that Liberty University was surpassed by Grand Canyon University (GCU), an institution I had not heard of. GCU hired a new CEO from University of Phoenix in 2008, and grew explosively. University of Phoenix is in the forefront of for-profit universities, often surrounded by controversy and charges that it markets a poor product, really existing to get students government loans and then rip them off.

At any rate, there seems to be a large and growing market for on-line courses that at least nominally can lead to degrees. (I suspect that few students ever get a degree.) They seem to be highly profitable, in part because their students are credulous and fail to perform due diligence. (For profit universities often lie or otherwise deceive candidates about their success rates; real facts are hard to come by.) The old Liberty University always flirted with bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by Tim LaHaye, a great friend of Jerry Falwell Sr.

It seems like an area deserving scrutiny. But Christians are too busy harassing Planned Parenthood to look into potential multi-billion dollar scams by religious organizations.


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