Federal government’s scrutiny of GCU draws rebuke from Arizona Chamber, business and political leaders

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry is calling on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to end his department’s unfair treatment and scrutiny of Grand Canyon University. 

In a letter from the Chamber to Cardona sent last week, the Chamber cites its concern over the Department of Education’s refusal to acknowledge GCU’s transition from a for-profit status to non-profit, which has led to litigation that diverts resources away from the university’s educational mission. 

Furthermore, the letter expresses concern about the excessive scrutiny placed on GCU, which is typically reserved for institutions that offer subpar educational programs and that encourage students to rely on loans to finance their education. In stark contrast, GCU’s graduates are well-prepared for the job market, graduate with less debt, and repay that debt more reliably than their peers. 

“When an institution of higher learning is producing graduates ready for today’s economy, is keeping students’ costs down, and is investing in its home campus’ traditionally underserved Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix and its schools, we should stand up and applaud,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden said. “Yet in the case of GCU, the U.S. Department of Education is tying the school up in red tape and moving goalposts, making it more difficult for the school to continue its good work.” 

The Chamber says the Department of Education’s arguments against GCU are “flimsy” and “borderline preposterous.” For example, the government says that GCU’s estimates of the cost of finishing a doctoral program weren’t sufficiently transparent. But GCU provides prospective doctoral students with far more information on costs than ever required by the federal government. The government has also made the charge that GCU’s advertising claim that “Cybersecurity experts are in high demand” is misleading when the need for cybersecurity professionals in today’s workforce is obvious. 

The Chamber says it believes that the government’s actions are inconsistent with Secretary Cardona’s stated vision for a new higher education model. GCU has proven to be a disruptor in the higher education landscape and plays a crucial role in making education accessible to a diverse array of students, representing a step toward realizing the secretary’s vision. 

“The department should absolutely safeguard the integrity of higher education, but the treatment of GCU is disproportionate and, at times, hostile,” Seiden said. “The contradictory guidance and relentless demands placed on GCU are detrimental to the university’s growth and to the students it serves, who deserve far better treatment.” 

Seiden says GCU, with its transformative impact on higher education, is attracting students from across the nation. Arizona depends on GCU and its graduates, and the country needs more institutions like GCU dedicated to expanding access to quality education. 

GCU is garnering support from leaders inside and outside of Arizona. 

At an October 6 meeting of hundreds of GCU employees at the Phoenix campus, Phoenix sports and business icon Jerry Colangelo said that GCU is one of the greatest success stories he has ever seen.

“To know the facts and see how the government is responding the way they are, it’s absurd. It really is,” said Colangelo, whose name graces GCU’s business college. “You can’t quit on this issue, you have to fight the issue when truth is on your side. You go to the mat and you continue to fight the battle until the battle is over.”

Arizona state Senate President Warren Petersen, House Speaker Ben Toma, Senate and House Education Committee Chairs Ken Bennett and Beverly Pingerelli, as well as Senator Janae Shamp, all Republicans, sent their own letter to Cardona, writing, “Many in Arizona, and in higher education, view GCU as a model of innovation for postsecondary education that provides solutions for 21st century demands. It is this revolutionary approach to higher education that causes many in Arizona, and in the higher education community, to value GCU and look to it as a leader in the future of higher education. However, it appears for these same reasons GCU is celebrated, the Department is targeting the University. The issues being discussed by the Department could easily be resolved by two amicable parties.” 

The university is also finding allies on the opinion page. In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial under the headline, “Biden’s Regulators Gang Up on a Christian College,” the paper said, “GCU offers woke-free vocational training and a liberal arts education,” and that the government’s targeting of GCU would ultimately hurt GCU students.

Image from GCU press release

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