Jerry Falwell Jr. Talks About Past Struggles and His Hopes for the Future of Liberty University

Stephen Strang: The New York Times published a long article on how successful Liberty University is, but it was also somewhat critical. Do you think it was fair?

Jerry Falwell: No. There were accounts from former students and employees who said some things that were not accurate—but federal privacy laws forbid us from refuting what the students said. That’s an old reporter’s trick. They know colleges can’t defend themselves because of federal privacy laws. But we wrote a rebuttal. If you look at the rebuttal with the New York Times story, I think you get a pretty good picture of Liberty.

Strang: The article implied the quality of Liberty’s online classes was inferior to classroom instruction and that some online students couldn’t afford it. How do you respond?

Falwell: Liberty’s is the most affordable online solution available among the top online universities. Many students, including my son, have attended the resident program at Liberty and also took online courses while they were students at Liberty. Every one of them said that the online courses are much more rigorous than traditional resident-type education that most universities have used for years.

Strang: Liberty almost went under from 1988 until 1997, and your father went on a 40-day fast to pray. What was your role in that amazing turnaround?

Falwell: My role was to negotiate with creditors, to borrow money many weekends from benefactors, institutions and anybody who would help us to cover paychecks that had gone out the Friday before. That’s how close to the edge we were. With the exception of a few insiders, Dad and I were pretty much the only ones who knew how close to the edge financially the university was. But he believed it was important not to scare everyone. He felt like it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy if he let everyone know how difficult times were, so he kept it to himself and we just fought it out together. It really makes me appreciate what God has done here in the last 10 years after going through that experience.

Strang: Liberty was originally called Lynchburg Baptist College. It is no longer Baptist. In fact, you have many Pentecostal and charismatic students. What is the university’s attitude toward the Pentecostal/charismatic doctrines and practices that Baptists have traditionally rejected?

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SOURCE: Charisma Mag, Steve Strang