May 22, 2024
The U.S. Department of Education is trying to take down Grand Canyon University over "ideological" differences, according to GCU's president.
The U.S. Department of Education is trying to take down Grand Canyon University over “ideological” differences, according to GCU’s president.



FIRST ON FOX: Arizona’s education department is pushing back against the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) threat to shut down Grand Canyon University, calling it “the latest episode of harassment” against the school by the federal government.

“It is unwarranted and unjust,” Arizona state Superintendent Tom Horne told Fox News Digital Friday. “In the U.S., anyone accused of wrongdoing is presumed innocent and entitled to their day in court. Secretary Cardona’s threat is contrary to those constitutional guarantees and unworthy of his position.”

Horne said he wrote to DOE Secretary Miguel Cardona last year about GCU’s “excellent” reputation and urged him to sit down with GCU leadership to hash out their issues.


“That is a reasonable request, but, so far, he has chosen to be unreasonable,” Horne said. 

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The Biden administration is trying to take down the largest Christian university over “ideological” differences despite the school being audited several times by separate state entities, according to the university’s president.

“We are very, very universally loved and respected in the state of Arizona on both sides of the aisle,” Grand Canyon University (GCU) President Brian Mueller told Fox News Digital Thursday. “This thing is absolutely not political for us. There’s a small group of people in Washington, D.C., in the Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission, but none of the allegations that they’re lobbing are corroborated any place else.”

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While GCU will first try to appeal within DOE, Mueller said he believes “the Supreme Court will hear this.”

“There’s so much at stake here,” he said.

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GCU’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, also described GCU’s doctoral disclosures as “robust and thorough” in its 2021 comprehensive review of GCU’s enrollment practices, a GCU executive told Fox News Digital. The Arizona State Approving Agency (SAA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which recently audited GCU specifically to investigate the DOE’s claims, also concluded there were “no substantiated findings.” 

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“The Arizona SAA did not have any substantiated findings based on our review of Grand Canyon University,” SAA’s letter to GCU in March stated. “There are no findings impacting the continued approval of Grand Canyon University at this time. There are no follow-up actions required by Grand Canyon University at this time.”

Mueller’s comments come as DOE Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed to shut down the school for being “a predatory for-profit school” during a House Appropriations Committee hearing about cracking down on GCU and other universities like it last week.

The DOE claims that GCU “lied to students” and “falsely advertised” the cost to complete a doctoral program, which the GCU rejects. In higher education, doctoral programs that include dissertations rarely have a fixed cost because the number of continuation courses varies for each individual student, a GCU spokesperson said in response.

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Cardona made comments during a House Appropriations Committee hearing about cracking down on GCU and other universities like it April 10.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., asked Cardona how the administration is working to shut down GCU, which she called “a predatory for-profit school.” 

Cardona openly embraced the enforcement methods. 

“Last year, your department took action against Grand Canyon University, a predatory for-profit college, over the school’s failure to accurately disclose its cost to students, driving up the true cost for those students and requiring for them to pay for continuation courses before they would graduate. Scam courses added about $10,000 or more to the cost of education to these kids,” DeLauro said.

“Going after predatory schools preying on first-generation students,” Cardona responded. “They have flashy marketing materials, but the product is not worth the paper it is printed on. Increased enforcement budget to go after these folks and crack down. Levied largest fine in history against a school that lied about costs and terminated a school from Title IV. We are cracking down not only to shut them down, but to send a message not to prey on students.”

GCU appealed a $37.7 million fine imposed by the department in November based on allegations the Arizona-based higher learning institution misled students about the cost of its doctoral programs over several years.

The department said in an October press release an investigation conducted by the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) found GCU “lied” to over 7,500 former and current students about the cost of its doctoral programs. The release also said GCU “falsely advertises” a lower cost for its doctoral programs, adding that about 98% of students ended up paying more than the advertised cost.

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Fox News’ Joshua Q. Nelson contributed to this report.

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