Largest Christian University Enrollment takes a Dive

Taber Andrew Bain is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Trump-backed university tries hard to defend itself despite experiencing decreasing enrollment

Liberty University has never shied away from repeatedly calling itself “the largest Christian university” in the world. Jerry Falwell, the university’s president, even mentioned it in his 2016 Republican National Convention speech. Trump proudly did the same in his commencement speech at the university in May 2017, and the school had also published it on their website.

However, after witnessing a decrease in enrollment, Liberty is now trying to quietly dissociate itself from the name it had once given itself so proudly. School officials have removed it from its website, and it is no longer mentioned in the university’s press releases.

This is because as shown in federal enrollment data, a Phoenix Christian college, Grand Canyon University (GCU), has a higher number of enrolled students. As per the Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System, a U.S Education Department project, Grand Canyon University had 111,211 students from 2015-2016 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), while for the same academic year, Liberty University only had 109,921.

Despite these apparent facts, Liberty is still trying to defend its old status as the most significant Christian university in the world. Falwell says that according to the school’s definitions, it still holds the rank. Since his school has more full-time students than GCU, Falwell says it remains the largest Christian university. In 2015-2016, Liberty had 65,290 full-time students while GCU had 63,350. However, universities are ranked for highest enrollment based on the total number of enrolled students, and not just full-time students.

Moreover, Falwell says their definition of what is considered a Christian university includes universities hiring faculty who only follow fundamental Christian doctrine strictly. “GCU does not. Liberty does,” he says, adding, “Liberty’s definition of a ‘Christian’ university for identification purposes refers to evangelical Christian universities.”

Experts have criticized Falwell’s stance, indicating that he is defending the status of the world’s largest Christian university only for his theological and political agenda. It is to be noted that Falwell is extremely close to Trump and is also a member of the President’s evangelical advisory committee – an informal committee that advises Trump, made up mostly of radical preachers, conservative political figures, and televangelists. He has also been criticized by many for defending the President’s most disruptive decisions and comments.

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