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Liberty University one of the largest recipients of federal aid money for students

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MahurinEcon_Thumb1_561.jpg

Evangelical college Liberty University is the largest recipient of federal aid to a student body in Virginia and the eighth largest recipient in the country overall, reports Lynchburg’s News and Advance.Eighty-eight percent of the $445 million in federal aid that Liberty, of Lynchburg, Va., received in the 2009-2010 school year was comprised of student loans; the remaining 12 percent came in the form of Pell grants and other federal education subsidies.

Liberty is the largest private university in Virginia and calls itself “the largest and fastest growing Christian Evangelical university in the world.” The university was founded on the fundamentalist principles of the late Jerry Falwell and notoriously requires students in all its programs to take a course in “creationist studies.” The figure of $445 million is a 56 percent increase from the amount of money Liberty received in the previous school year.

One of the major factors in the upsurge in federal funds obtained by the university has been its massive growth in recent years, including the addition of a law school that contains a full-scale replica of the U.S. Supreme Court, designed to help partner institution Liberty Counsel practice appeal cases before taking them to high court. Liberty Counsel is a non-profit law firm that provides legal assistance for right-wing causes. It is designated an “anti-gay group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Robert Ritz, Liberty’s executive director of financial aid, tells the Lynchburg News and Advance that the university’s reliance on federal funding is not, in his estimation, inconsistent with the school’s deeply conservative principles:

These funds are authorized by Congress and Congress is elected by voters. . . I’ve always been in the position where I believe I’m a steward of those federal funds. I’m a steward of tax-payer money.

Liberty University is a private school that has previously used its status as a purely non-public institution to defend its ban on students forming a College Democrats club.

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