A 21st Century Model for Higher Education?

by Zachary Hill

While many higher education institutions are struggling with budgets due to economic uncertainty, Liberty University is undertaking a $400 million spending spree over four years. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is currently building high-rise dorms, an expanded football stadium, and a library in which books will be retrieved by robots. How is this relatively unknown school able to afford such costly renovations?

A private, non-profit college, Liberty University offers a competitive tuition rate of $20,768 and has an endowment over $1 billion. While enrolling only 13,000 on-campus students, the university’s online program boasts 92,500 students. This online division accounts for 66% of the university’s revenue, but it only requires 44% of expenses. The surplus is used for appealing campus upgrades. In addition, the only faculty members who earn tenure are law faculty. These factors and excellent customer service are earning praise from financial analysts and interest from students across the globe.

Liberty University also claims to offer a quality education. Offering a Christian heritage, it is ranked by Young America’s Foundation as one the nation’s top 10 conservative colleges. It offers a 25-to-1 student-faculty ratio and a multitude of degree and certificate programs.

In today’s increasingly technological society, is Liberty University the new model for colleges across the nation? Are massive online programs the solution to financial difficulties in higher education? A senior analyst from Moody’s Investors Service, a credit-rating agency, observes that Liberty is “continuing to see robust revenue growth, a stark contrast in what we’re seeing in a majority of our universities.”  Liberty University’s innovative financial structure deserves greater attention from other colleges.

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