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Liberty University now biggest in U.S.

March 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM
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LIBERTY, Va., March 5 (UPI) -- Liberty University in Virginia, founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell as Lynchburg Baptist College, has become the largest private university in the country.

The university now has more than 74,000 students, almost 62,000 of them studying on line, The Washington Post reports. At the end of 2012, Liberty reported more than $1 billion in net assets, 10 times the amount in 2006.

Liberty grew fast under Falwell, the pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg and one of the country's leading conservative evangelical leaders. But its growth has been explosive since his death in 2007.

Only 47 percent of its students get degrees within six years of enrolling, the Post said. The national average is 58 percent.

Jerry Falwell Jr., who now serves as chancellor and president, said the school strives to provide opportunity for people seeking college degrees.

"We believe that Liberty will redefine what is considered an academically prestigious university in the future," he said.

Liberty's loan default rate is below average, suggesting it has avoided piling its students with loads of debt.

Falwell also said Liberty has shifted away from its original mission. He wants Liberty to be the evangelical equivalent of Notre Dame or Brigham Young.

"We're not the Moral Majority anymore," he said. "We're not a church. Our mission is to educate."

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