What is the Largest University in the United States?

You are probably surprised to learn that, if you look at crime data gathered by the Department of Education under the Clery Act, the largest 4-year higher education institution is Liberty University. For those not familiar with Liberty, it was founded in 1971 in Lynchburg, Virginia by Jerry Falwell. According to the school’s 2012 submission to the Department of Education, it had 74,372 students. It seems that Liberty has a booming business in online education and counts students enrolled through that program in its student body. A slightly lower number of students, 12,600, are actually in residence. According to the school’s website, there are now 90,000 online students making it the only 4-year college or university with over 100,000 students. I have to say that I am troubled by the nice, round numbers of students in both categories on the website. Are those just estimates and Liberty does not know its precise enrollment? Or is it really committed to all student totals being evenly divisible by 100?

Liberty’s inclusion of online students as part of Clery Act crime reporting obligations has the effect of substantially decreasing reported crime rates on campus. That seems to frustrate the intention of the law as crimes by online students are not tracked. It also makes it difficult for researchers to properly assess the real rates of reported on-campus crime. One might think that Liberty would be a little more careful in its submissions after running into problems during a Clery Act audit. In 2013, the Department of Education stated its intention to fine Liberty for $165,000 because of numerous violations in prior reporting activity. Of course, in reviewing the past Clery Act audits, I did not see one school penalized for failing to accurately count its student body. But there is always a first.

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1 Response

  1. mls says:

    Dear Professor Yung: thank you for bringing this information to our attention. It is very important that the federal government monitor and penalize the slightest infractions by our institutions of higher learning, particularly those with names like “Liberty University” which sound suspiciously like they are inclined to be rule-breakers. Naturally we can trust the government to administer these rules with the same objectivity, untainted by ideological or religious animus of any kind, that you exemplify in your reporting.

    In this spirit, I suggest you go to the University of Kansas Clery Act Annual Security Report page (http://www.ku.edu/safety/) and attempt to use the link for the Medical Center’s campus safety report (http://www.kumc.edu/police/crime_reports_act.html). You will see that this link does not work, which undoubtedly creates some sort of safety hazard that should be brought to the immediate attention of the Department of Education