Grand Canyon University (GCU), located in Phoenix and recognized as the largest Christian university in the United States, has announced its intention to contest a substantial fine of $37.7 million.
This penalty, levied by the Department of Education (DOE), arises from allegations that GCU misled students regarding the costs of its doctoral programs over several years. The DOE, through a press release, disclosed that an investigation by the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office found that GCU had deceived over 7,500 past and current students about these program costs.
The DOE’s investigation revealed that GCU had advertised its doctoral programs at a lower cost than what students actually paid. Approximately 98% of the students enrolled in these programs ended up paying more than the advertised prices.
The university was given a 20-day period to either request a hearing with the DOE’s Office of Hearings and Appeals or submit a response to the FSA, explaining why the fine should not be imposed. Additionally, specific conditions were set for GCU to continue its participation in federal student aid programs.
GCU had previously informed the DOE that the cost of its doctoral programs ranged between $40,000 and $49,000. In a recent news conference, GCU President Brian Mueller expressed his determination to challenge the fine and resist what he perceives as the federal government’s broader efforts to target the university.
“I have spoken to thousands of students, parents, employees, alumni and community stakeholders in Arizona, and they all tell me the same thing: We need to fight this tyranny from federal government agencies not only to stand up for ourselves, but to ensure this type of ideological government overreach and weaponization of federal agencies does not happen to others,” Mueller said.
“American people are losing confidence in the federal government to be fair and objective in their operations and there are clearly no checks and balances to prevent this type of behavior from the Department of Education, which is out of control and continues to broaden its authority and selective enforcement powers.”
Mueller refuted the allegations of misleading students, asserting that GCU does not deceive but rather provides more transparency than legally required, a practice he claims is lacking in the education system. He referenced the federal court case Young v. GCU, where the courts dismissed claims of GCU misrepresenting the time or cost to complete a doctoral program. Mueller argued that the university is leading in transparency within higher education rather than misleading.
The president also highlighted the opposition of the DOE to GCU’s nonprofit model, which has been in place for four years. He hoped that the DOE’s stance would soften over time, given the model’s success in maintaining low tuition rates, low student loan default rates and diverse student bodies. However, Mueller noted that the DOE seems more entrenched in its opposition, with coordinated efforts from other federal agencies to harm GCU.
“For the Department to look at GCU’s numerous disclosures … and determine that it merits any fine at all, let alone the highest fine it has ever levied, speaks volumes about their motivations and the coordinated efforts being taken against GCU,” Mueller said.
“Further, for the Department to state that we intentionally lied is absurd. We are providing more cost information than the Department requires, which we do because we want to be fully transparent and because it benefits students.”
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.