A “Steward” of Tax-Payer Money

Conservatives might be annoyed about federal funding for National Public Radio and the National Endowment for the Arts, but it looks like some pretty conservative organizations are getting a nice share of federal cash, too.

Liberty University, the fundamentalist college in Lynchburg, Virginia that got into trouble last year for suspiciously Republican political involvement, apparently got some $445 million in federal financial aid last year.

According to an article by Alex Pareene on Salon:

That massive sum was thanks to the growth of Liberty’s online program, which enrolled 52,000 students last year. The school is the No. 1 recipient of Pell grant money in the state of Virginia. While it may seem like the federal government is basically subsidizing this formerly financially challenged ultra-conservative religious private school, LU’s executive director of financial aid sees it differently.

Despite the school’s historic opposition to the federal government (a year ago Liberty’s Law School dean, Mathew Staver, announced his plans to challenge health care legislation, saying that the bill “destroys liberty, and is patently unconstitutional”) the director doesn’t think financial aid really counts as federal money.

Since federal financial aid doesn’t actually come from directly the government, but is funneled though individual students, it’s all okay.

“These funds are authorized by Congress and Congress is elected by voters. . . I’ve always been in the position where I believe I’m a steward of those federal funds. I’m a steward of tax-payer money,” said financial aid director Robert Ritz. Some 81 percent of Liberty students attend school only online.

Last year the school enrolled about 52,000 online students. It only enrolls 12,000 students who physically attend classes in Lynchburg.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer