The Biden administration recently imposed a huge fine on Grand Canyon University(GCU), the biggest ever from the Department of Education. 

The school whose motto is “private, Christian, and affordable,” got hit hard. Surprisingly, the fine is ten times larger than those given to schools involved in covering up serious sex offenses in United States history.

GCU, A Big Success Story

It doesn’t matter the metric you choose to judge by, Phoenix-based GCU has been a big success. It has gone from just a small school with fewer than 1,000 students and few course offerings to one of the country’s largest schools. 

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The university provides degrees in more than 200 subjects and is divided into 9 colleges. As of September 2023, it had over 100,000 students attending classes both online and in person, making it one of the biggest Christian universities in terms of student numbers and it has managed to do that without any increases in tuition in over 15 years.  

GCU’s Success Draws Unwanted Attention

You’d expect that a success story like this one would earn the praises of the Department of Education, an agency supposedly dedicated to making sure American students receive education of the highest quality. But no, GCU has become a target for the agency and they have higher education regulators to thank for that. 

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After previously supporting Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, Richard Cordray assumed control of the department. He and his allies then took it upon themselves to destroy institutions that did not align with the dominant beliefs at government-run schools.

Department’s Vendetta: GCU Faces Monumental Fine

The department seems to have something against the university which has not only successfully altered the higher education industry but has also gone toe-to-toe with the federal government over its nonprofit status.  

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In November, things reached a breaking point when the department hit GCU with a huge $37.7 million fine, the biggest in the agency’s history by far. 

Comparing Fines: GCU’s Penalty Stands Out

To put it in perspective, Penn State University was fined $2.4 million for not reporting the crimes of serial pedophile and football coach Jerry Sandusky. Michigan State University faced a $4.5 million fine for ignoring sexual assaults by disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar.

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Officials involved in the GCU case say the university broke federal disclosure rules by not clearly telling PhD students that they might need to take extra courses while finishing their doctoral dissertations. Basically, they’re saying even the smartest students at GCU might have missed this info in the tuition brochures.

Department’s Accusations: Smoke Without Fire?

The department slapped GCU with a big fine and put out a fancy press release saying they lied about the cost of their doctoral programs.

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But get this, they didn’t even mention any complaints from students. Instead, they made a bunch of fancy-sounding statements without any real evidence to back them up. If it wasn’t for their government immunity, this would totally be called out as defamation.

GCU Deserves Commendation For Standing Up Against Bullies

It’s obvious what the motivation of the department’s officials is. If we can’t prove our allegations against GCU, we’re going to make sure the process is excruciatingly painful and punishing. 

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Meanwhile, GCU should be commended for resisting the pressure from Washington amidst this noteworthy attack on higher education, while also persisting in its mission to educate college students across America effectively and affordably.

Innovating Education And Transforming Communities

This is a school that has been creative in addressing various challenges, like the nursing shortage nationwide, and in preparing students for well-paying trade jobs in high demand. 

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With Division I athletics in many sports and a vibrant campus culture, students are committed to helping their economically struggling community, which has seen significant improvement thanks to GCU’s influence.

GCU Graduates: Less Debt, More Success

GCU grads come out with way less debt than the national average. Public schools, on the other hand, have jacked up tuition for resident students by over 150% in the last twenty years, even though they get taxpayer funds that GCU doesn’t. 

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But those Biden administration folks? They seem more interested in pushing an agenda than in seeing students succeed.

More Fines Ahead?

To Grand Canyon officials, the fine “is further evidence of the coordinated and unjust actions the federal government is taking against the largest Christian university in the country.” 

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Right now, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into the phone calls Grand Canyon Education makes to potential students. If things don’t go well, they might end up facing more fines.

Expert Critique: Education Department’s Selective Targeting

An expert from Inside Higher Ed chimed in, backing GCU’s stance. Preston Cooper, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a think tank that leans towards free-market ideas, pointed out the irony. 

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He noted how the Department of Education is going after a Christian college like GCU, which has clashed with them before while turning a blind eye to other colleges that share the Biden administration’s ideology. These colleges have been caught fudging data they send to ranking outlets, but they’re getting a pass.

Department Got Praised By Some

In contrast, opponents of for-profit colleges have praised the department’s move. “Deceptive for-profit graduate programs are a large and growing part of America’s higher education crisis,” said Aaron Ament, president of the Student Defense, a legal advocacy nonprofit that assists students defrauded by colleges. 

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“When colleges lie to students, it costs them time and money they’ll never get back. 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.”

Additional Conditions Imposed On GCU

The department also slapped GCU with additional conditions for its federal student aid participation. One condition is that the university must not make big lies about the costs of its doctoral programs. 

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Another requirement is that Grand Canyon has to inform all current doctoral students about how they can file complaints with the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Deadline For Grand Canyon University To Contest Record Fine

The department’s news release states that unless the university requests a hearing or provides a written response explaining why the fine shouldn’t be imposed, the record-setting fine will take effect on November 20th.

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Grand Canyon University “will take all measures necessary to defend itself from these false accusations,” the university said.