February 23, 2024

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Business is my step

Liberty College sues governor around economic aid improvements

3 min read

Liberty University sued Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday, accusing his administration of wrongfully denying monetary aid to some of the evangelical school’s online learners.

At difficulty is a spending budget transform Northam and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly carried out previous year that built incoming college students enrolled exclusively in online applications ineligible for the state’s extended-working Tuition Help Grant method for Virginia citizens. Exempted from the improve were being learners who had to change their scientific tests on the web because of to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pupils at Liberty, which has an huge and rewarding online existence, experienced been the main recipients of the grant for years, and the adjust turned a sore spot for the college and its previous president, Jerry Falwell Jr., who consistently lashed out at Northam.

The lawsuit alleges that the eligibility adjustments have been created specifically to hurt Liberty, and “threaten to wreak significant financial and reputational harm” on the faculty.

It asks the courtroom to cease the exclusion of on the web college students from the grant application, saying it violates the Equivalent Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment “because no rational basis exists to distinguish amongst ‘online’ and ‘place-based’ education and learning.”

The lawsuit, submitted in federal courtroom in the Western District of Virginia, also names Peter Blake, director of the Condition Council of Better Education and learning for Virginia, as a defendant. The point out company manages the administration of the grant.

“Governor Northam has made it a top precedence to develop entry to very affordable, significant-top quality education. We really do not comment on pending litigation,” Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the council, Laura Osberger, also stated she could not comment.

The grant application produced in 1972, which is not need to have-centered, will help defray the expense of higher education for Virginia residents enrolled total time at collaborating private nonprofit institutions.

Yarmosky explained in January, as the legislature was using up Northam’s price range proposal, that the application was specially supposed to handle the “brick and mortar” prices linked with attending higher education, these types of as housing. Northam’s proposal greater the grant quantity for household learners.

“Online applications, by their quite mother nature, do not incur the similar myriad of brick and mortar costs,” she said at the time.

Falwell, who stepped down from his part at Liberty in August right after a sequence of own scandals, commonly railed in opposition to the changes, which includes at a joint push conference with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice exactly where the two encouraged Virginia counties to secede and sign up for their GOP-governed neighbor.

Afterwards, Falwell pointed to the tuition guidance cuts as the justification for a tweet he posted invoking a blackface scandal that nearly compelled Northam from office environment.

Experiencing a backlash for the tweet, which he inevitably apologized for and deleted, Falwell said his reference to the scandal was produced in defense of Liberty pupils, including minorities, who would be impacted by the improvements. Falwell said his involvement in politics was in the spirit of Jesus Christ, “who was not silent about the establishment political folks of his period.”

Liberty has because established its own assist system to replace the point out income: David Corry, Liberty’s normal counsel, said the school awarded about $1.6 million to 552 students in the 1st semester of the 2020-2021 academic year.

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