The first article in the Caner saga was written by John W. Kennedy and appeared at Christianity Today on May 3, and included the following sentence:
By all accounts, Caner is an energetic, entertaining, and engaging professor who has tripled enrollment at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary since his installation as president of the Lynchburg, Virginia, school five years ago.
This little nugget must meet some sort of journalistic style requirement, because it appeared in some form in every article about the Caner situation. There are two basic forms and several minor variants; the other basic form appears in this Baptist Press staff article:
Under Caner’s leadership, seminary enrollment has tripled to about 4,000 students since 2005.
Somewhere along the line some bright journalist went to the seminary website, I’m guessing, and added in the 4000 number:
Founded in 1973 as an outgrowth of Liberty University, the seminary has nearly 4,000 students from all 50 states and many countries around the world who are currently enrolled in both the residential and distance learning programs.
There are basically four claims here:
- Caner is/was president of the seminary 2005-2010
- Seminary enrollment is 4000 in 2010
- Seminary enrollment tripled under Caner’s leadership
- Caner is somehow responsible for the increase
The first claim is obviously true. The second is a sourced quote, but doesn’t appear to be true. A Lynchburg News-Advance article by Christa Desrets from July 8, 2008 describes the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years at the seminary this way:
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School is expecting 510 resident students this fall, and 4,580 distance-learning students. Last fall, the seminary had 352 resident students and 2,917 distance-learning students.
That’s 45% growth in resident enrollment, 56% growth in total enrollment in a single year, bringing total enrollment to 5090 in Spring 2009. An undated summary from Christianity Today puts the enrollment at 5038. I suppose it’s possible that seminary enrollment was capped for the 2009-2010 year at the previous year’s levels, but I haven’t found anything to substantiate that.
Regardless, I can’t find any verification of Liberty’s official number of 4000.
I haven’t been able to find any numbers for the 2004-2005 or 2005-2006 school years, but to be in line with the 4000-5000 figure it would have needed to be 1300-1700 then.
Regardless, the Desrets article has chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr crediting Caner for the growth in the seminary:
Falwell said the seminary’s growth stems from a plan implemented by President Ergun Caner that promotes its offerings around the nation.
“He’s gone out and presented the seminary as a separate school, and I think he’s done a fantastic job of showcasing what it has to offer,” Falwell said.
I really have no idea; I’d love to see video from one or two of these Caner road show appearances.
Update: This article from the Liberty Journal from December 2007 says seminary residential enrollment had doubled over the previous three years to 400 and total enrollment at “close to 4000 students.”