In a sudden public statement published last week, Grand Canyon University (Ariz.) believes government officials are waging “coordinat[ed] efforts to unjustly target GCU” in response to its lawsuit against the Department over its nonprofit status.
GCU President Brian Mueller said the Feds intend to issue a fine to the university for being deceptive about the costs of its doctorate programs, ABC 15 reports. Mueller, however, argues that this isn’t a real complaint students are waging and is instead a minor issue confabulated by the Department.
“I said, ‘You know we are never going to agree with that. You understand, right? Because students aren’t saying that. If you wanted us to change this or that, we would have willingly done that. You’re going to announce a fine,’” said President Mueller.
Such a fine is one example of a larger initiative driven by government agents from the Department of Education, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“After these comprehensive reviews, the only ‘findings’ these agencies have shared with us are seemingly minor in nature yet they attach labels such as ‘substantial misrepresentations’ or ‘deceptive and misleading’ in an effort to taint the university as a bad actor when all available evidence is to the contrary,” the school’s statement read.
Why did GCU file a lawsuit?
The conflict between the federal government and GCU, one of the country’s largest Christian Universities in the nation, first began when it applied to be recognized as a non-profit to the Department of Education in 2019 to streamline its federal funding process. The Department rejected its bid twice, citing GCU’s relationship with Grand Canyon Education, its service provider, which operates as a public company.
“We take our oversight obligations seriously, follow the facts where they lead, and will not be dissuaded from enforcing the law and protecting students, taxpayers, and the federal student aid programs,” the Department said. “We are unapologetically challenging schools that mislead their students, whether for profit or not.”
However, the Department’s decision took GCU by surprise, considering GCU’s nonprofit status has already been recognized by the IRS, the State of Arizona and both its regional and state accrediting bodies. Additionally, GCU bachelor’s degree graduates in 2019 and 2020 incurred less debt on average than the reported national average for 2019 graduates at public and private universities, according to data pulled by GCU from The Institute for College Access and Success. Insider Monkey ranked GCU as the best for-profit institution when aggregating its score across multiple college ranking services.
Feeling snubbed, GCU sued the Department in Jan. 2021.
“While faculty and administrative leaders from many universities have visited GCU to learn more about the University’s approach to higher education, Department of Education officials, despite repeated invitations, have never set foot on GCU’s campus to engage with the University’s students, faculty or staff,” wrote GCU upon its rejection.
Retaliations GCU feels the Department has waged since being issued the lawsuit are “so frivolous that they could have easily been resolved in a 10-minute phone call had the agencies chosen to do so.”