GCU broadens education access with full-tuition scholarships, tuition cost freeze

In its latest move to make college more accessible for Valley students, Grand Canyon University surprised local high school students Wednesday with scholarships to cover the full cost of their tuition.

The private Christian university also announced recently it would be yet again freezing the cost of tuition to reduce the impact of student loan debt.

The Students Inspiring Students (SIS) scholarship, which is in its fifth year, was created in collaboration among GCU, local high schools and philanthropic business leaders to bring better education access to the community.

(Grand Canyon University)
(Grand Canyon University)

GCU held a surprise event Wednesday night at the GCU Student Union to award 16 high school students with full-tuition scholarships.

Each year, the university awards full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city high schools who meet academic criteria, have financial need and received 100 or more hours of academic assistance at GCU’s Learning Lounge, a free after-school tutoring and mentoring program designed to improve skills and confidence among K-12 students, ultimately boosting achievement.

“This scholarship program is in its fifth year at the university and it works,” said Dr. Joe Veres, vice president of student success at GCU, in AZ Big Media. “It is rewarding to see these students spend time at the Learning Lounge, get awarded the scholarship and thrive on campus. They are bright, remarkable young men and women who just need a financial boost in order to go to college.”

(Grand Canyon University)
(Grand Canyon University)

More than 200 West Phoenix students have received the SIS scholarship so far, and the program hopes to “continuously transform K-12 education and offer 800 full-tuition scholarships,” according to GCU’s website.

SIS scholarship winners will pay forward their award by providing 100 hours per year of mentoring and academic support at a Learning Lounge site to assist high school students who also want a chance to attend college.

Future plans for SIS include:

  • Expanding the scholarship program,
  • establishing more K-12 Learning Lounge locations,
  • promoting SIS as a model on a national level and
  • graduating ambitious students who are ready to join the workforce as leaders.

Earlier this month, GCU announced it would be freezing tuition costs for the 12th consecutive year.

The average annual cost to attend a four-year public college rose 2.3 percent to $10,440 in the 2019-2020 academic year, and tuition and fees at four-year private institutions increased by 3.4 percent to $36,880 in the same time period, according to College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing” report.

GCU said it would cap on-campus tuition at $16,500 for the 2020-2021 school year.

But GCU is a scholarship powerhouse — more than 90 percent of its students receive institutional scholarships — bringing the average tuition cost down to $8,700. That’s similar to public universities and less than many private universities, according to GCU.

“GCU’s goal is to make college education affordable to all socioeconomic classes of Americans, and we have taken a very innovative approach to make that happen,” said GCU President Brian Mueller.

The university’s dedication to providing affordable higher education means GCU students acquire less debt than students who graduate with student loans from public, private-nonprofit and for-profit colleges; those students leave college with an average of $26,900, $31,450 and $39,900, respectively, in student loan debt, according to a report by the Institute for College Access and Success.

Mueller said tuition freezes have resulted in a high-quality, diverse student body, with 47 percent of students identifying as people of color.

GCU also announced that over the past 10 years it has invested more than $1 billion into new academic programs, technologies, classrooms, laboratories, research spaces, residence halls and other student amenities. Mueller said the school plans to spend an additional $500 million over the next five years.

Investments at GCU include:

  • 22 suite- and apartment-style residence halls;
  • more than 1 million square feet of classroom, laboratory, library and office space;
  • a new 136,000-square-foot Canyon Activity Center;
  • an innovation center with workspace for startups, an incubator, co-working space and more, which currently houses 27 companies;
  • the launch of 10 new business enterprises that employ more than 400 people; and
  • the approval of 42 new academic programs in the past year, bringing the total to more than 270 academic degrees, emphases and certificates offered in nine different colleges.

Header photo courtesy of Grand Canyon University.

***An earlier version of this story, as well as the description in the Dry Heat email, incorrectly stated the scholarship event took place at GCU Ballpark, and that 25 students received full-tuition scholarships; those details have been corrected in the current version.

Emily Richardson

Graham Bosch

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