GCU growing beyond capacity

If you’ve driven out by Grand Canyon University in west Phoenix in the past six months you may have seen what appears to be a never-ending stretch of construction on the campus’ new dorms. Practically every free bit of space around the private Christian university’s campus has been purchased by the college to build new student housing project after new student housing project. There’s only one problem: it isn’t enough.

Even though there are currently three new residence halls underway at Grand Canyon University, the nonprofit university doesn’t have enough beds and rooms ready to meet demand heading into the fall of 2019. According to GCU’s President and CEO Brian Mueller, “every bed on this campus will be filled in the fall.”

“Our goal is to make private Christian education affordable to all socioeconomic classes of Americans, which is happening,” Mueller said. “That equal opportunity has resulted in a very diverse student body. We also want to be part of building a strong workforce for Arizona, especially the west side of Phoenix. When we grow to 30,000 students on our campus, we will be graduating 5,000-6,000 of those on an annual basis.”

The school has seen massive growth in recent years, and not just in student body numbers. While the headcount for on-campus students was around 19,000 at last tally this last year, it’s expected to surpass that heading into the next school year. Quite a rise from the 1,000 students it had just a decade ago. What’s more, it’s carried on with its aggressive expansion, pumping more than $1.2 billion in infrastructure projects and new programs.

This past winter, GCU introduced the Colangelo School of Business housed in a 150,000-square-foot building on the east side of campus, making it one of the biggest business schools in the entire country.

GCU will see new apartment-style buildings completed this year as well as a new parking garage and advisement center for students. Between the three buildings, dubbed Palo Verde, Sonora, and Antelope, there will be 624 never-before-slept-in beds that will fill the rooms. This will bring the total number of dormitories on campus to 23 and the total number of beds to 13,800, a jump up from 12,000 last school year.

Altogether, the percentage of students living on campus will bump up to 63 percent from 59 percent, a high number for a university by any mark.

“Students are choosing to continue living on campus, even as juniors and seniors, mainly because of the community atmosphere that exists. They love being part of that community,” Mueller said. “They love the friendships they are making and networks they are building. They love the social activities that are available. They love the relationships they have with professors due to our small class sizes. They love the Academic and Career Excellence centers that exist throughout campus to support them. It’s a very exciting place to spend three or four years.”

Nick Esquer

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