Nation’s Largest Christian University Says It’s Being ‘Unjustly’ Targeted by the Federal Government

Arizona’s Grand Canyon University is locked in battle with the federal government, and the college says it is being “unjustly” targeted. In a statement on its website, the college, which says it has 25,800 students on its main campus in Phoenix and another 92,000 online, said the Department of Education, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs “are coordinating efforts to unjustly target GCU in what appears to be retaliation for the university filing an ongoing lawsuit against ED regarding its nonprofit status.” “This is occurring at an alarming level for government agencies to be taking against the largest Christian university in the country,” the college statement said. The issues at stake revolve around the college’s efforts to be classified as a non-profit for purposes of federal student aid instead of its current for-profit status at a time when the Biden administration is setting the FTC loose on for-profit colleges it believes are defrauding students that end up with huge loans. Costs of its doctoral programs are a bone of contention between the college and federal agencies, as is the language of the college’s advertising. The college noted that its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status “has been recognized by the IRS, Higher Learning Commission, State of Arizona, Arizona Private Postsecondary Board and NCAA Athletics.” A representative of the Department of Education told Fox News that a 2018 ruling indicated that the college did not meet the Higher Education Act’s rules for non-profit status. “The school sued to challenge this determination, twice, and the Department prevailed, twice. The school appealed both of those cases. The Department prevailed in the first appeal, and the appeal in the second case is pending,” the DOE’s representative said. A DOE statement to Fox said there were “substantial misrepresentations and other compliance issues identified by the Department.” “Moreover, through a separate investigation unrelated to those lawsuits, the Department determined that fewer than 2 percent of the students who graduated from GCU’s doctoral programs that require dissertations paid the amount that GCU advertised as the total cost,” a department representative said, saying the college does not dispute the finding. “This is an example of the Department taking reasonable and prudent oversight actions as a regulator to protect students and taxpayers and has nothing to do with the school’s religious affiliation as a Christian University or history of litigation against the Department.” The college’s statement, however, accused the Department of Education of “intentionally mis-classifying GCU” and said that federal agencies are targeting it “in an unprecedented manner,” even though it says it has proven itself not to be a concern as indicated by federal guidelines. The college said it has been punished for fighting back. “Since GCU filed its lawsuit, these agencies have swamped the university and its education partner with broad requests for voluminous amounts of information and records about our operations — the scope of which made it clear these requests were part of a broad fishing expedition to find issue with the university,” the college statement said. Fox News asked college President Brian Mueller if he thought the federal probes are religiously motivated. “Well, they haven’t said it is, and I certainly haven’t said it is. And I hope that it’s not, but that the two largest Christian universities in the country are being investigated,” Mueller said, citing an investigation aimed at Liberty University in Virginia. “And so is that [a] coincidence? I don’t know.” However, the college’s statement said, “The substance of these claims makes it clear that something more coordinated and agenda-driven is occurring in an attempt to damage the reputation of a university that has created an innovative and nontraditional model to successfully address the challenges facing higher education today and is extremely important to the State of Arizona.” The statement does not spell out what it thinks the federal agenda might be. “When the FTC said that they’re going to crack down on for-profit, their big statement was because they have a greater than normal amount of defaults on student loans, so it’s not a good use of taxpayer money. But number one, we’re a nonprofit university. Number two, our default rates on student loans are very good — They’re very low,” Mueller told Fox News. “You know, we produce this campus with 118,000 students, and we’ve basically done it without any state subsidies at all. In fact, for a lot of those years, we were paying taxes. And so I don’t, again — I don’t know what it is. It just doesn’t make sense,” he said. In its statement, the college noted that its management practices “allowed it to go from an institution on the brink of closing to becoming the largest private Christian university in the country. It has become an American success story because it has focused on providing academic programs in creative delivery formats to help a greater percent of the population access higher education in order to meet their career and life goals.” “Now, for political or ideological reasons we don’t understand, some in our federal government want to undermine those efforts,” the statement said, adding that “given their clear motivations and recent actions, we can no longer stay silent and allow their coordinated efforts to impugn the reputation of this university and the many faculty and staff who go above and beyond to ensure we provide the best possible service to our students.” The college followed up the statement with an open letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in which it said that after making what it called “numerous leaders in Arizona” aware of what was taking place, “They are incredulous that, given the nature of the Department’s claims and all of the positive contributions GCU is making in higher education, that a monetary fine of any amount is being considered.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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