The financial state of Liberty University is stronger than ever with more than $3 billion in gross assets, according to numbers from the last fiscal year, said LU President Jerry Falwell Jr.

The report found that for every $1 of LU spending, $1.67 was generated in local economic activity and that one of every four jobs is “directly or indirectly attributable” to the university.
Reporter: Josh Moody
Lynchburg News & Advance 
October 2, 2018

Via text message to The News & Advance, Falwell said LU “passed $3 billion in gross assets in August” with “$2.48 billion in net assets” and “almost $1.7 billion in cash and investments,” per recent numbers.

With an emphasis on money generated from operations and donations, Falwell said that LU added a larger surplus in 2014 thanks to a strong return on endowment investments. That too is a strong point for Liberty, according to the annual study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute on college finances released in February, LU’s endowment for the 2016-17 fiscal year came in at $1.3 billion — a number that has grown since that report, looking at a prior year’s endowment, was released.

Falwell shared these new numbers with The News & Advance following a new economic impact report commissioned by Liberty, and released last week, that showed the university generated an estimated $1.3 billion a year in local and statewide economic activity.

“What this tells me about Liberty, is that it’s a huge economic engine for the area, and it’s becoming more and more pronounced as the years go by,” Falwell said.

That number matches the findings of a 2014 report commissioned by the university, which estimated that Liberty generated around $1.3 billion in estimated economic activity.

LU has spent $1 billion on facilities alone in recent years as part of a campus construction plan, adding new athletic facilities and academic buildings, and renovating existing structures.

The report, compiled by Richmond-based Mangum Economics, noted LU employs 6,797 people full time and its regional spending supports another 12,000 jobs, generating $434.3 million in labor income. The report found that direct spending by LU, associated enterprises, students and visitors totaled $618.3 million in the Lynchburg metropolitan statistical area during the course of the 2016-17 fiscal year. LU, students, and visitors generated another $106 million in collected tax revenue. In 2014, that number was reported at $116.7 million.“Liberty’s growth and their significant economic impact in Lynchburg — both in spending and employment — make them a primary anchor and partner for the City of Lynchburg,” Anna Bentson, Lynchburg assistant director of economic development, wrote via email.

The report found that for every $1 of LU spending, $1.67 was generated in local economic activity and that one of every four jobs is “directly or indirectly attributable” to the university.

A number of high-profile events have drawn visitors to Liberty this year. More than 50,000 attended graduation, nearly 15,000 participants came for the Commonwealth Games, at LU since 2016, and hundreds more attended the Miss Virginia Pageant in its first year at Liberty.

Bentson noted that the Commonwealth Games alone had a $2.6 million economic impact according to last year’s numbers, and LU also will host the State Games of America in 2019.

As LU’s economic impact has increased in recent years, so too has its influence with local government. Falwell said that relationships with local officials are better than ever.

“They’ve realized that Liberty’s intentions are to do things right, make things look good, to bring in students that really contribute to the city in many ways, through public service, through volunteerism, through being good employees, good tenants for landlords,” he said.

City Manager Bonnie Svrcek described LU as an economic engine for Lynchburg.

“The economic impact report simply documents the data that supports what we already know: Liberty University provides both a primary and secondary infusion of not only revenue into the City but provides human capital that contributes to the energy and fabric of our City,” Svrcek wrote in part of an email.

Falwell added that he’s also heard many anecdotal stories of students settling in the area after graduation and of family members of students moving to be near the university.

“There are some things that can’t be measured,” Falwell said.

Something the economic impact report does measure, though, is student growth. According to the report, LU experienced 783 percent growth in student population from 1992 to 2017. That number has slipped recently. The LU website used to claim total enrollment of around 115,000; the report claims that Liberty had a student headcount of 101,951 in 2016-17.

Falwell said the decline in enrollment was due to targeting fewer, more successful students.

“Even though enrollment is down a little bit, actual revenue and surplus of revenue over expenses is the highest it’s ever been from operations and donations,” Falwell said.

Officials from other area colleges said they have not conducted economic impact reports to determine spending generated by their institutions.

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