Liberty University has such a high profile these days that Ted Cruzannounced his bid for the 2016 presidencythere on Monday, but the school was in such deep distress in the 1990s that it almost shut down.
The Christian college was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1990 because its debt totaled $US110 million, Christianity Today reported in 1997.
It was again placed on probation for a year in 1996.
“The financial situation has impinged on the education program,” Jack Allen, associate executive director for the SACS Commission on Colleges, told CT. The agency found dozens of violations upon visiting the college in 1996, including violations of academic freedom, faculty compensation, and faculty loads.
Southern televangelist and megachurch pastor Jerry Falwell — who founded Liberty — blamed the school’s problems on the “televangelist scandals of the 1980s,” the Associated Press reported in 1995.
Liberty was able to turn its situation around before deciding to close, unlike nearby Sweet Briar College, which is slated to shut its doors this semester.
Liberty survived in large part because of supporters who offered assistance, including Virginia businessmen Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas. Their nonprofit, Christian Heritage Foundation, helped Liberty in the late 1980s, “excusing the Lynchburg, Va., school of about one-half of its $US73 million debt,” according to veteran journalist Robert Parry in an article written in 1995.
The AP reported that Thomas and Reber “saved” Liberty University by forgiving more than $US30 million in debt.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon contributed another $US3.5 million through a grant to the Christian Heritage Foundation, Parry wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1997. Moon himself is a controversial figure. Born in what today is North Korea, he was convicted of spying in for South Korea and sentenced to five years in a labour camp.
He founded a Christian church in Korea and then moved to the US where he became a leading religious figure and self-proclaimed South Korean Messiah. Many Christian fundamentalists despised Moon his for his rejection of Christian tenants, such as the literal Resurrection of Jesus, and called him a cult leader.
We reached out to Liberty for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
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