Liberty University, a Christian-based college in Va., now largest in nation for private schools

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Liberty University, a Christian-based school in Virginia, is now the largest private institute of higher learning in the United States.

It was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell and initially named Lynchburg Baptist College. Mr. Falwell was a notable church pastor and conservative evangelical leader until his death in 2007.

Since, the university has exploded in popularity.

Its net assets in 2012 hit $1 billion — 10 times what it reported just six years earlier, United Press International reports. And its online presence is massive. The school has a student population of more than 74,000, with roughly 62,000 of them taking classes and studying online.

Students take their time obtaining their degrees through Liberty. Only 47 percent earn degrees within six years of their enrollment dates; the national average stands at 58 percent, UPI reports.

But student-loan default rates are much lower than average, UPI says.

Liberty president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said he hopes the school to become akin to a Notre Dame or Brigham Young.

“We believe that Liberty will redefine what is considered an academically prestigious university in the future,” he said in the UPI report.

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