Liberty University officials pledge federal compliance after record $14M fine

The Freedom Tower at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Freedom Tower at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. | Liberty University

Officials at Liberty University told The Christian Post they have made efforts to ensure proper compliance with Title IX regulations following the school's unprecedented settlement with the federal government.

The flagship Evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, settled with the U.S. Department of Education earlier this week, agreeing to pay $14 million related to violations of the Clery Act that requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding to report data of campus crime and report threats to students.

The fine is the largest levied under the Clery Act, which was enacted in 1990. 

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The Education Department, which initially threatened a $37.5 million fine, said it identified multiple cases in which on-campus crimes were misclassified or underreported. Federal officials also accused the university of failing to warn the community about gas leaks, bomb threats and individuals who have been credibly accused of repeated acts of sexual violence.

Liberty University President Dondi E. Costin, who was hired last year, told CP the university didn't fully comply with its record-keeping and reporting obligations as the institution experienced record growth, for which he expressed regret. He said Liberty sprung into action when officials learned of its shortcomings before the Education Department got involved.

"We formed a task force to identify every deficiency and engaged outside experts to help us build the model program we now have," Costin said. "Having invested more than $10 million to deliver significant increases in staffing, training, infrastructure, technology and programming, I can say with absolute confidence that Liberty University now sets the pace for campus safety and security."

Ashley Reich, Liberty's chief compliance officer, told CP that the university recruited an outside consultant to review its Title IX policies. That consultant, she said, provided 99 recommendations to bring Liberty into compliance. 

"A task force was created in October 2022 to review the recommendations and put a timeframe around them for implementation," Reich said. "All of the recommendations (plus, many others) were fully implemented by August 2023 with many that were completed within the first 90 days of the review."

Reich said that the school intends to maintain consistent oversight regarding internal quality control and standard business practice through the recent creation of Liberty University's Office of University Compliance.

The external consultant company Healy+ assisted Liberty with conducting a full-scale review of its compliance with the Clery Act, Reich explained, adding that the school voluntarily implemented a Program Improvement Plan in October 2022 that outlined many of the Clery requirements and best practices.

"This allowed us to address the main violations that many schools struggle to comply with due to the nuances of the Clery Act," she said. "Our team went to work quickly to find ways to not only comply with the Clery Act but do so efficiently."

Costin said students and alumni have "overwhelmingly expressed their appreciation for Liberty's transparency in acknowledging past deficiencies, our demonstrated commitment to fix what was broken, and our significant investments in transforming our operation into a benchmark program other universities can now model."

"If it's Christian, it ought to be better," Costin said, quoting Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell Sr. "Because of the impressive progress that has been made, our students and alumni can see that we have achieved that standard with respect to our Clery Act compliance."

Costin suggested that despite Liberty's past deficiencies, he believes Liberty has endured stricter scrutiny and steeper fines relative to the Education Department's usual practice.

He implied the federal government might be targeting Evangelical institutions, especially in light of Grand Canyon University's similar hefty fine for allegedly misleading students about the cost of its doctoral program.

"Some might call that quibbling, but I would simply point out that it's possible to pony up to one's mistakes and be simultaneously subject to government overreach throughout the process," Costin said.

"Based on what we know of how the department adjudicated multiple dozens of past actions, we can show the math to demonstrate the extent to which our experience was radically different than the norm," he continued. "Maybe Liberty is the outlier, but I would not be surprised if this kind of treatment escalates."

CP reached out to the Department of Education for comment and will update this article if a response is received. 

Richard Cordray, the chief operating officer for the Education Department's Office of Federal Student Aid, said in a statement Tuesday that the agency responds "aggressively to complaints about campus safety and security."

“Through the Clery Act schools are obligated to take action that creates safe and secure campus communities, investigate complaints, and responsibly disclose information about crimes and other safety concerns," he said. "We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so.”

Costin expressed optimism about Liberty's future and said the school is "well into a comprehensive strategic planning process to ensure we keep our eyes on the prize of training champions for Christ."

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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