The federal government has imposed a fine of $37.7 million on the biggest Christian university in the country, alleging that it provided false information to its graduate students regarding the cost of their programs. The university is facing accusations of misleading students, which has led to the hefty penalty.
With over 100,000 students, predominantly in online programs, Grand Canyon University is facing the most significant fine ever imposed by the U.S. Education Department. Despite the allegations, the university has rejected the accusations as baseless and misleading.
In a comprehensive five-page statement, Grand Canyon University has vehemently denied all allegations stated in the Department of Education’s statement. The school has expressed its commitment to taking every possible measure to defend itself against these false accusations.
According to an investigation conducted by the Education Department, Grand Canyon University has been found guilty of deceiving over 7,500 past and present students regarding the expenses associated with their doctoral programs.
In 2017, the university had informed its students about the estimated cost of doctoral programs, which ranged from $40,000 to $49,000. However, the department recently discovered that only a small fraction of the graduates, i.e., less than 2%, completed their programs within this range. Shockingly, around 78% of the students ended up paying an additional $10,000 to $12,000, which is quite a significant amount.
According to the department, the cost usually arose from the requirement of taking “continuation courses” to fulfill the dissertation requirements.
According to Richard Cordray, who is the Chief Operating Officer for Federal Student Aid, an office in the Education Department, GCU’s deceitful actions have caused harm to students, shattered their trust, and resulted in students incurring unexpectedly high levels of debt. The Education Department is taking action today to hold GCU responsible for their actions, safeguarding the interests of students and taxpayers, and preserving the integrity of the federal student aid programs.
As part of a larger effort to hold U.S. universities accountable, the Biden administration is imposing a fine. The Education Department has taken steps to increase transparency and regulation, including a new rule that may result in the reduction of federal funding for for-profit college programs that fail to provide graduates with the means to repay their loans. Additionally, the agency is committed to providing students and families with more comprehensive information about college outcomes.
The Grand Canyon has been given a deadline of 20 days to appeal the fine imposed on them. In addition to the fine, the department has also set new conditions that the school must fulfill in order to continue receiving federal funding.
The educational institution is now required to refrain from making any significant false claims regarding the expenses of their doctoral programs. Moreover, if the school decides to disclose the cost of doctoral programs, it is mandatory for them to utilize the average cost paid by their graduates.
Furthermore, the institution is required to disclose any additional inquiries or legal actions they are currently facing. In addition, they are obligated to notify their current doctoral students about the process for submitting a complaint to the Education Department.
According to the department, Grand Canyon has been the highest recipient of federal student aid in the United States for the past four years.
In a recent development, Grand Canyon University has accused federal agencies of unfairly targeting the institution with “frivolous accusations.” According to the university, this action is in response to an ongoing lawsuit that the institution filed against the Education Department in 2021. The statement issued by the university earlier this month highlights the institution’s frustration with the unfair treatment it is receiving.
The Grand Canyon is facing a lawsuit after their request to be classified as a non-profit college was rejected by the agency. Back in 2004, the institution became a for-profit college after investors rescued it from financial collapse. However, in 2018, Grand Canyon applied to become a non-profit again but the Trump administration denied the move, citing the college’s close ties to its previous parent company.
According to both its accreditor and the Internal Revenue Service, the organization is classified as a nonprofit.
Grand Canyon has responded to the fine, stating that its cost disclosures have already been validated in court during another lawsuit and by the school’s accreditor. The university has expressed concern over what it perceives to be a “disturbing pattern” by the Education Department and has requested to address the matter through a federal mediator.
According to the university, the statement released by the opposing party reveals their clear intention to harm the institution. The school believes that this is a part of a larger, coordinated effort to target GCU.
With its main campus located in Phoenix, the university has approximately 20,000 students enrolled. However, the majority of its student body is comprised of individuals from outside the state who take online courses. In fact, as of 2021, the university has a staggering enrollment of 80,000 students in online programs, equally divided between undergraduate and graduate programs.
Advocacy organizations for student loan borrowers praised the imposition of the fine.
According to Aaron Ament, the president of Student Defense, colleges that deceive students end up costing them both time and money that can never be recovered. He expresses his satisfaction with the Department of Education’s efforts to prevent graduate schools from falsely representing the costs of their programs and hopes that they will continue to take action against these predatory tactics.