November 24, 2015 : By Liberty University News Service
Liberty University’s 2015 freshman class made history at the university even before they turned in their first papers. Just by stepping on campus, the entering class of more than 4,000 raised Liberty’s residential population above 14,000 for the first time.
But these students also made history another way — by arriving at Liberty as one of the most well-prepared classes in terms of academic aptitude.
From Fall 2014 to Fall 2015, the university saw increases in entrance exam scores as well as high school GPAs. SAT scores rose by 18 points to a mid-range of 950-1170 and ACT was up 0.3 percent to a mid-range of 20-26. GPA was up 0.7 percent to a mid-range of 3.17-3.85.
Liberty is also seeing a rise in the number of students in its Honors Program, and a record number of National Merit students are studying on campus this fall — 41 percent more than last year. Merit-based financial aid programs are also helping more high-achieving students, including scholarships for high school valedictorians and salutatorians and aid for students with high GPAs and high entrance exam scores. Many of those students are eligible for Liberty’s Eagle Scholars Program, which fosters a sense of community, improves academic knowledge, and provides leadership and professional experience through highly sought-after internship opportunities.
“In our short 44 years, the quality of our educational offerings is moving the admission threshold up,” said Chris Johnson, executive vice president for enrollment management. “Increasingly, better-prepared students across the nation are seeking an excellent education that instills Christian principles. A lot of the allure with Liberty has to do with the investment that President Jerry Falwell and his administrative team have made in faculty, facilities, and resources available to students.”
Many Liberty University faculty members hold advanced degrees from some of the world’s most respected schools. Their years of real-world experience combined with a commitment to the Christian faith result in a unique dedication to mentorship and to helping students become leaders in their field.
A $500 million campus rebuilding is underway, including many new academic buildings. The Center for Medical and Health Sciences opened in Fall 2014 for the first class of students in the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine. A new Science Hall opened last spring and was completed for the Fall 2015 semester. The Center for Music and the Worship Arts, opened this fall, with a 1,600-seat auditorium scheduled for completion this spring. In August, the university broke ground on the Freedom Tower, which will be a part of the Rawlings School of Divinity. The 275-foot tower and the two-and-half-story building around its base are set to open in Spring 2017.
The university also reported that undergraduate retention rates are up 3.6 percentage points from Fall 2014.
“This rate comparison is another strong signal that we are bringing in better-prepared students who are committed to their studies here and want a Liberty University degree,” said Dr. Ron Hawkins, provost.
As Liberty has continued to increase its admission standards over time, it has also built on its academic prowess by broadening its degree offerings. With 16 colleges and schools, Liberty now offers more than 200 residential programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level.
“High school applicants are becoming more competitive for these programs each academic term,” Johnson said. “It is a different scenario today, and the increases each fall have been noteworthy over the last decade.”
But while high academic achievements are becoming more noticeable in those applying to Liberty, the university remains committed to its Christian heritage, focusing on more than high academic achievement as it changes the model for higher education. In recognizing the potential of students who fall beyond the mid-range statistics and by providing them with a strong network of support and care in their first years, President Jerry Falwell said Liberty is “redefining what is considered an academically prestigious university.”
“In the near future, we believe the top universities will not be considered prestigious based on how many students they turn away, but rather by how many they accept and how well they educate those students and help them realize their potential,” he said.