Liberty University PHD/Doctorate programs?

How are the PHD/Doctorate programs at Liberty? I’ve found such little information on the web about them. I’m specifically interested in the PHD - Public Policy program but any information about other doctorate programs there would certainly help inform me of what kind of school it is. I am aware that completion time for these degrees can be as short as 2.5-3 years which is nice for a student like me that wants to do it in 2-3 years. Also, on the official website, I read that tuition cost is being lowered from $595/credit hour to ~350 which makes this extremely affordable which is another feature that caught my eye. However, quality of education is obviously critical, especially for a research degree for legitimacy reasons, not just in academia but in a professional setting.

Side note; I have 6 months left on my Masters of Public Administration and currently earning a 4.0 gpa and wondering if I should include Liberty on my short list of places I’m considering. My own personal politics are center-right but I did my undergrad at an extremely liberal university so I really don’t have a problem with a schools politics.

Well, it all depends on what you want to do with your Ph.D.

Most people who want to go into academia realize that they need a degree from a university that’s tops in its field for their particular area of interest. This is because the competition for academic jobs is so fierce. For many academic fields there maybe as few as 1-2 jobs per year open in academia. Some fields there are more positions. If you’re interested in a field that just has a few positions open each year, you can see why getting into a top institution is paramount. You simply need that leverage to be considered for one of the few jobs. Even being at University Number 1 for X field may not be enough because that Uni may graduate 3 Ph.D.s in your chosen field for that year. You need to be super competitive in some fields–setting yourself apart from your peers through research and publications. Plus your mentorship from your professor is key: he or she will guide you both in terms of knowledge and in terms of skills in research. He or she will also be able to recommend you for positions and help to place you as you move into your career, whether it’s academia or in the private sector or government or an NGO of some sort.

Also, top unis will not expect you to pay for the Ph.D. but will usually have some sort of money to offer you. In exchange as part of your training you may work in a lab or alongside the professor as part of your mentorship, helping in his or her research and perhaps teaching or doing apprenticeship-level TA work.

With that as background, why go to Liberty? Let’s figure this out. Maybe it has what you need. Ask yourself – is it tops in the field that you’re interested in?

Be aware that some schools (even some Ivies) use grad school and certificate programs as money makers for the school and there are few jobs available once you’re out the other side of your degree, but you will have the debt.

Also ask yourself whether you need a Ph.D. to pursue your career. You have a masters – are you interested in public policy? Why not just go to work in government or in a think tank in DC or elsewhere?

In terms of general reputation, Liberty is known for being founded by Jerry Falwell, a far-right religious politician and TV evangelist, and the school is currently run by his son. My understanding is that it has about 13,000 undergrads and about 1700 grad students and many more in the online school. The graduation rate is only 33% or so for undergrad. There’s conflicting information about its acceptance rate for undergrad – which is relevant because it will give you some at-least loose impression of the school’s quality and reputation, one of your questions. On the one hand it reports a 39% acceptance rate of 14,000 applicants, which would place it in a tier with other high-quality specialized institutions (I consider Liberty specialized because it seems to want to attract far-right, Christian religious students or those interested in studying those issues–it’s full name is Liberty University Christian College). OTOH its graph of whom it accepts shows that very few applicants are ever turned away. It looks like greater than 90% of applicants are accepted – google and to see that. That’s undergrad. It looks like it may accept virtually anyone to the program and their mentorship to get them through is unclear as the grad rate is fairly low. Low graduation rates would bolster the theory that admissions is less selective, because the more weak students who are accepted, the higher number don’t complete their degrees. This low grad rate means many students leave Liberty with debt and no degree and poor job prospects.

How about the grad programs? It looks as though they have a law program on campus that graduates 58 per year.

The Ph.D. programs available are numerous. However you may need to check whether the program you’re interested in is a regular Ph.D. program (where you’re taken under the arm of a professor as an apprentice and mentored through the Ph.D. and into a job, usually supported financially by the institution), or whether it is a online program, where you learn at home, pay for the classes, and end up with a degree, but none of the hands-on mentorship and career help from the professor and your fellow students’ networking – and alumni networking – that gets you jobs. Judging from the US government website, all of the Ph.D. programs at Liberty except for law and ESL are online degrees. I’m not sure from this, but it seems to indicate that Liberty’s Ph.D. programs (if this is indeed the case) seem to be money makers for the school that do graduate several people in their desired profession.

The little “d” next to the number indicates an online degree. Again, I might be wrong about this. Check with Liberty directly to see if they offer on-campus mentorship for their students or if all Ph.D.s are online only.

It’s hard to tell from this data what the drop-out rate is for Liberty from their online programs. This just reports the numbers that graduate. As an FYI if you’re considering doing an online degree, the drop-out rate is 40% - 80% according to elearning Industries.

Agree with @Dustyfeathers.

Liberty is a 100% online PhD. Is your MPA also online?

The why for a graduate degree is important. A Masters in PP is useful for work in consulting / think tanks / government departments & agencies (and for an unreasonable number of jobs it is a requirement).

If you want to go into academia, a PhD is essential. But, whether you want to do research or teach, the nature of that PhD will matter. A recent study found that “graduates of the top 11 programs occupy almost 50 percent of all tenured or tenure-track openings in the top 100 departments in the discipline.”. On the other hand an unpublished (and informal/not rigorous) study of hiring in departments outside the top 100 found that teaching skills mattered more, and they tended not to hire from the top tier- b/c those schools are research, not teaching focused. Obviously, an online program means that you won’t have any teaching experience.

For consulting, it’s all about prestige (and they really aren’t particularly into PhDs in general).

For local government and many NGOs, it likely doesn’t matter where your degree came from (and in some areas, Liberty will be a positive).

For regional/national government, your work experience will matter. Public policy grad degrees tend to be mid-career (the top-tier ones require a minimum of 5 years of work experience before you can even apply), so your work before and after will matter. Which leads to @Dustyfeathers point:

One of the reasons that Liberty law school has been so effective at job placement is the connections the faculty have, and the relationships with their students.

Also, ‘politics’ at Liberty is not the same thing as ‘politics’ at the “extremely liberal” university you went to: I don’t know of any ‘liberal’ university that has a specific set of underlying principles by which they teach. The Econ department may largely follow the orthodoxy of x school of economic thought- but nothing as specific as what Liberty’s objective states;

After completing this program, you will have gained the historical and philosophical background needed to help shape public policy from a Christian worldview. Our program is unique in that it offers you points of biblical integration and application and speaks specifically to the biblical perspective on public policy and statesmanship./quote

If your Masters is online, you may well have what it takes to complete an online PhD- but be aware that the big difference between the two is the dissertation, which is meant to be actual research (original research is one of the defining characteristics of a PhD). Not one single person starts a PhD thinking that they will be in the majority: students who don’t ever complete the degree. Online completion rates are lower for lots of reasons, but one is that you don’t have the direct relationship of supervisor & peers to help you ride out the tough parts.

Finally, fwiw there are fully funded PP PhD programs (off hand, AU, Georgia State, UWa, USC, UMi, CMU, Duke, Princeton, etc). Not as fast a degree (4-6 years), but you get full tuition + a stipend for living. You won’t be surprised to learn that they are competitive- but by your stats, so are you :slight_smile:

What do you want to do with that degree? If your goal is teaching at an Evangelical college it may help. Otherwise I’m not sure why you’d invest that much time in it.

Yes, I am interested in having a professional career in government doing public admin/policy. My undergrad was in Political Science with a focus in politics and government and now I’m about to have a MPA which is by most accounts sufficient for that path but MPAs like MBAs are becoming increasingly common and I was thinking that a PhD would distinguish me from the pack.

Yes, I’m attending a public university with a several 100% online master programs. One of the major reasons why I picked this over brick and mortar is because it was cheap and I could complete it in 1.5 years (Time is obviously very important to me).

Thanks for the info; I have thought a little about some of these more well known and highly ranked schools because I may be competitive enough for them now, but the time commitment and teaching thing are big buzzkills for me. I have practically zero ambition in teaching. What I want to do is work in and improve government which many will agree with me in saying that it has become quite rotten in the past few decades.

The goal of improving government is as old as government (seriously). For all its faults, the US government is - overall- no worse now than it has ever been. There are as many talented and dedicated (and as many who are just punching the time-clock) government workers as there have ever been (and honestly, not that many venal people). The ambition to make things better is wonderful, but look for the places where you can actually add something positive not just go after something you see as ‘rotten’.

At this point, imo you would be better off focusing on whatever aspect of public policy is actually interesting to you, and becoming expert in that area. You will be able to do more good in public service if you bring actual expertise - not just theoretical concepts- with you. Get some work experience before going for the PhD. A PhD is, in essence, a research degree, and the process is both easier and more fun if you have an area in which you are actually interested in doing a deep research dive.

You are right that today’s masters is last generation undergraduate, but just getting a PhD as part of a degree arms race is probably not the best use of your time or money. Getting actual work experience is crucial, and the PhD’s you are looking at aren’t going to give you some of the best parts of having a PhD: contacts / connections or a name-brand.

Also, if you’re not interested in teaching at an evangelical college, a PHD from Liberty will not advance your goal - especially not if it’s online. If you truly want a PHD, you need to pick one from a well-established, brick-and-mortar university. And no shortcuts. And first, you need to work in think tanks, policy, government, etc.