Grand Canyon University has been hit with a fine of $37.7 million for deceiving its students over the cost of their education. Here’s the full story.
Ungodly Amount of Money
Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian university in the United States with over 100,000 students, faces a substantial $37.7 million fine from the federal government.
Grand Canyon University has 20 days to appeal the fine.
This penalty comes in response to allegations that the university misled students regarding the cost of its graduate programs.
It is the most significant fine of its kind ever imposed by the U.S. Education Department.
“Lies and Deceptive Statements”
Grand Canyon University, however, vehemently denies the allegations. In a five-page statement, the school characterized the accusations as “lies and deceptive statements.”
Deny and Defend
They stated, “Grand Canyon University categorically denies every accusation in the Department of Education’s statement and will take all measures necessary to defend itself from these false accusations.”
An investigation conducted by the Education Department revealed that Grand Canyon University provided inaccurate information to more than 7,500 current and former students regarding the cost of its doctoral programs.
As far back as 2017, the university informed students that its doctoral programs would cost between $40,000 and $49,000.
However, the department found that less than 2% of graduates completed their programs within this cost range, with 78% paying an additional $10,000 to $12,000.
The additional costs often arose from “continuation courses” required to fulfill dissertation requirements, according to the department.
Richard Cordray, the Chief Operating Officer for Federal Student Aid, a department within the Education Department, emphasized the harm done to students, stating, “GCU’s lies harmed students, broke their trust, and led to unexpectedly high levels of student debt.”
The Biden administration is imposing this fine as part of a broader effort to hold U.S. universities accountable.
The Education Department recently implemented a regulation that could potentially reduce federal funding to for-profit college programs if graduates cannot repay loans.
Additionally, the agency aims to provide students and their families with more information about outcomes from all colleges.
The department is also imposing new conditions that the school must meet to continue receiving federal funding.
These conditions include not making “substantial misrepresentations” about the cost of doctoral programs, using the average cost paid by graduates when informing students about program expenses, reporting any ongoing investigations or lawsuits, and instructing current doctoral students on how to file complaints with the Education Department.
Follow the Money
Over the past four years, Grand Canyon University has disbursed more federal student aid than any other U.S. institution, as reported by the department.
Earlier this month, the university alleged that federal agencies were unfairly targeting them with “frivolous accusations” as a form of retaliation for a lawsuit filed against the Education Department in 2021.
This lawsuit was initiated after the agency rejected the university’s request to be reclassified as a nonprofit college.
A Non Profit That Profits
Although Grand Canyon University became a for-profit institution in 2004, it applied to regain nonprofit status in 2018, a request blocked by the Trump administration.
Despite this, the school is considered a nonprofit by its accreditor and the Internal Revenue Service.
In response to the fine, Grand Canyon University argues that its cost disclosures have been upheld in court during a separate lawsuit and by the school’s accreditor.
They view the fine as part of a “disturbing pattern” by the Education Department, alleging that the agency declined a request to address the issue through a federal mediator.
Lots of Students, Lots of Money
While the university enrolls around 20,000 students at its campus in Phoenix, most of its students take online classes from outside Arizona.
As of 2021, the university had approximately 80,000 students in online programs, with nearly equal enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs.
Various groups advocating for student loan borrowers have applauded the fine.
Aaron Ament, President of Student Defense, expressed support for the Education Department’s action, stating, “We’re glad to see the Department of Education take action to prevent graduate schools from misleading students about the costs of their programs, and we hope they will continue to crack down on these types of predatory schemes.”
Online, the news has led to accusations of unfair treatment by some, with one commenter stating, “More department of justice targeting opponents.” Another said simply, “The Feds hate Christians.”
Others, however, voiced support for the move, with one poster commenting, “Grand Canyon University is a diploma mill. It’s not a real school. It should be shut down.”
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