You're probably aware that Boston is a giant college town. We've got somewhere around 75 institutes of higher learning in Boston proper and the surrounding communities. Some larger than others, some highly specialized. A prominent one is Catholic (Boston College), but none of them are Evangelical.Stories like this just make me cringe.
When an Army veteran was looking for somewhere to get an online aviation degree a couple of years ago in hopes of becoming a pilot, Liberty University advertised having the speed and flexibility she needed: accelerated eight-week courses with start times throughout the year and 52 affiliated flight schools around the country where she could get the required flight training. She signed up for the program, paying with the GI Bill benefits that have made military veterans such a reliable source of revenue for Liberty and other universities with large online programs.
But when her husband, who was still on active duty, learned he would be transferred from Georgia to Hawaii, she discovered that the lone Liberty flight affiliate on Oahu, George’s Aviation Services in Honolulu, did not offer the accelerated courses Liberty had touted. This meant that it would take her double the time to complete her program, two years rather than one, and would cost U.S. taxpayers more along the way, she stated in a complaint she filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“There was not one time where it was clearly stated that some flight affiliates do not accept students in the accelerated program,” she wrote in her complaint. “I would not have enrolled knowing that I didn’t have the option at every flight affiliate and now I am stuck with having very few courses remaining and an inability to continue in the program.”
The article revealed how much Liberty — the second-largest provider of online education after the University of Phoenix — relied on taxpayer funding for tuition revenue: Its students received more than $772 million in total aid from the Department of Education by 2017, plus more than $40 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Military veterans are such a big market for Liberty University Online that it has a whole division assigned to them.
And the article described a “steep drop-off in quality from the traditional college to the online courses” that was “openly acknowledged among Liberty faculty.” It showed how the university managed to keep its costs in delivering online courses exceedingly low by relying on low-paid instructors and course designers. This helped explain how Liberty, which is a nonprofit organization, managed to pocket $215 million of net income on nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2016, but it also helped explain why students were filing complaints with Virginia’s higher education oversight agency. It was a couple dozen such complaints, obtained via a public records request, that gave rise to the ProPublica investigation, revealing a much deeper iceberg of concerns about Liberty’s online operation. (In the 2018 article, Falwell Jr. described the university’s financial management as shrewd and defended the quality of its instruction.)
There have been dramatic changes at Liberty since then: In the summer of 2020, Falwell Jr. resigned as president after news reports of extramarital activities involving him and his wife. (He said that his wife had had an affair but that he had not.) Meanwhile, the university community has witnessed the realization of the goal that Falwell cited in championing Donald Trump for president in 2016: the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Throughout all the upheaval, though, complaints about online education have kept coming, as shown by the VA’s records, which were provided to Dahn Shaulis, a higher education blogger who filed a records request for complaints and then shared the agency’s response with ProPublica. Those records do not indicate whether the VA took any action in response to the complaints.
While you can argue all you want whether or not colleges in general are a money-making scam (Oh, some of them are), Liberty University illustrates to me how successful an industry preying on veterans has become in this country.
Liberty University itself, of course, is where angry white men go to be come fully radicalized Trump supporters. So they use all the taxpayer funds from the GI Bill and other sources to further their agenda - just like those megachurches that use their 'religion' as a shield.