The Department of Education (ED) has recently imposed a substantial fine on the largest Christian university in the United States, Grand Canyon University (GCU), for allegedly providing false information about the costs of its doctoral programs. This action by the ED follows an investigation by the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), revealing that GCU had “falsely advertised” the costs of these programs to over 7,500 former and current students over multiple years, resulting in a fine of $37.7 million.
GCU — Providing Inaccurate Information to Students
According to the Department of Education’s press release, the investigation found that GCU had provided inaccurate information to students, leading to approximately 98% of them paying more than what was initially advertised for the doctoral programs. FSA’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Cordray, stated, “GCU lied about the cost of its doctoral programs to attract students to enroll. FSA takes its oversight responsibilities seriously. GCU’s lies harmed students, broke their trust, and led to unexpectedly high levels of student debt. Today, we are holding Grand Canyon University accountable for its actions, protecting students and taxpayers, and upholding the integrity of the federal student aid programs.”
GCU now has a 20-day deadline to either request a hearing with the Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals or provide a response to the FSA, explaining why the fine should not be imposed. In addition to the fine, the Department of Education has imposed specific conditions on the Arizona-based university to continue participating in federal student aid programs.
Grand Canyon University’s False Claims
Grand Canyon University had previously informed the Department of Education that the cost of its doctoral programs ranged from $40,000 to $49,000. However, FSA’s investigation found that the university had made “false claims” about the program costs on its website and net price calculators, which violated the Higher Education Act. Similar false claims were identified in enrollment agreements, catalogs, policy handbooks, and other marketing materials.
Largest US Christian University (Grand Canyon University) Faces Record Fine After Government Probe into Alleged Deception
In light of these substantial misrepresentations, the Department determined that GCU failed to meet the fiduciary standard required of a Title IV participant. The Department of Education informed Fox News Digital that Grand Canyon University has had “substantial misrepresentations and other compliance issues identified by the Department.” In addition, the Department disclosed that fewer than 2% of students who graduated from GCU’s doctoral programs that required dissertations paid the amount that the university had advertised as the total cost.
GCU’s President states “Unfairly Targeted by Federal Agencies”
This development comes as GCU’s president, Brian Mueller, has expressed concerns about the university being unfairly targeted by federal agencies. When asked if he believes the investigations are religiously motivated, Mueller stated that he hopes they are not. He emphasized that both GCU and Liberty University in Virginia, the two largest Christian universities in the country, are undergoing federal investigations, raising questions about any potential coincidences in the timing of these inquiries.
Mueller suggested that the federal investigations are linked to the ED’s denial of GCU’s request to convert into a nonprofit institution in 2018, which resulted in the university remaining classified as a for-profit entity for federal student financial aid purposes. A court rejected GCU’s suit on these grounds, and an appeal to this decision is scheduled for December 5.
GCU stated Fox News Digital, asserting that the allegations made by the Department do not align with the facts and that the university will appeal the fine and the actions taken by the Department, vowing to refute the allegations. The university expressed its surprise at the Department’s insinuation that GCU had “lied” or “broken trust” with its students and stated that the imposed fine indicates the Department’s intent to harm the institution.
In a press release, the university affirmed that the Department’s decision to fine Grand Canyon University and impose conditions on its program participation agreement highlights the coordinated and unjust actions taken by the federal government against the largest Christian university in the country.