The university objects to a recent amendment to the Virginia state budget that bans online students from receiving a tuition scholarship.
Liberty University has filed a lawsuit against Virginia alleging that its students were wrongly barred from receiving government grants.
WSLS reports that Liberty filed its complaint after reviewing Virginia’s 2020 operating budget.
The budget effectively prohibits students taking any online curriculum from the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant, which is currently only available to those taking at least one in-person course.
In the lawsuit, the defendants are Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, and Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education, named.
According to the WSLS, Virginia has provided economic assistance to citizens seeking or pursuing higher education since 1973. Since the advent of the Internet, the VTAG (Tuition Assistance Grant) has been available to all students, regardless of whether they are taking classes online or in a physical classroom.
According to Liberty University, Virginia has now made different requirements. The latest budget stipulates that students cannot receive the VTAG if they “participate in an online educational or distance learning program”.
Diploma. Image via Pexels.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Liberty criticized the development as a form of “unconstitutional discrimination”.
“Over the past 20 years, online resources have become an increasingly important tool that higher education institutions use to educate students, and the VTAG program has played an important role in making higher education available to all students in Virginia regardless of their circumstances.” Jerry Prevo said the incumbent president of Liberty University in a statement, “Students often choose to enroll with Liberty and other academic institutions that offer online courses for the flexibility and accessibility they need as non-traditional students who are working parents, parents who provide childcare, military members and veterans, first responders, and economically disadvantaged students. Online courses also provide access to education for students whose health or medical issues make campus impractical, as well as others who need flexibility in where and when to access educational materials. The VTAG changes for 2020 harm all of these and other groups. “
While the governor’s office has provided limited responses, a Northam spokesman says Virginia’s continued priority is providing its residents with affordable access to education.
“Governor Northam has made it a top priority to expand access to affordable, quality education,” said spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky. “We do not comment on any pending litigation.”
Earlier this year, Yarmosky said Northam’s decision to cut distance learning from VTAG had more to do with cost than anything.
“Naturally, online programs do not cause the same countless inpatient costs,” said Yarmosky.
Liberty University is filing a lawsuit against Governor Ralph Northam alleging it discriminated against online students
Liberty University in Virginia is suing the governor for aid