The biggest Christian college in the United States is set to receive a significant penalty following a government investigation into accusations of deceit.

The federal government is imposing a $37.7 million fine on the biggest Christian university in the country for allegedly providing false information about the expenses of its graduate programs to students.

The U.S. Education Department has issued its largest fine to date for Grand Canyon University, which has a student body of over 100,000 predominantly enrolled in online programs. The university has rejected the accusations as false and misleading.

The school released a five-page statement stating that it denies all accusations made by the Department of Education and will take necessary actions to protect itself from these untrue claims.

A probe by the Department of Education discovered that Grand Canyon University deceived over 7,500 past and present students regarding the expenses of its doctoral programs.

In 2017, the university informed students that their doctoral programs would require a payment of $40,000 to $49,000. However, it was discovered that only a small percentage (less than 2%) of graduates actually paid within this range. The majority (78%) ended up paying an extra amount of $10,000 to $12,000.

According to the department, the added expenses were typically associated with “continuation courses” required to complete dissertation requirements.

The chief operating officer for Federal Student Aid, Richard Cordray, stated that GCU’s deception caused harm to students, betrayed their trust, and resulted in unexpectedly high levels of student debt. He also mentioned that by taking action against GCU, they are safeguarding the interests of students and taxpayers and maintaining the credibility of federal student aid programs.

The fine, issued by the Biden administration, is part of a larger effort to hold U.S. universities accountable. The Education Department has recently implemented a new regulation that may result in a reduction of federal funding for for-profit college programs if their graduates are unable to repay loans. The agency also intends to provide students and families with more comprehensive information about the outcomes of all colleges.

The school has a deadline of 20 days to challenge the imposed penalty by Grand Canyon. Furthermore, the department is introducing additional requirements that the school must fulfill in order to maintain its receipt of federal funds.

The school is prohibited from providing inaccurate information about the cost of doctoral programs. If it discloses the cost, it must use the average amount paid by graduates.

It is also required to disclose any additional inquiries or legal actions, as well as provide current doctoral students with instructions on how to file a complaint with the Education Department.

According to the department, Grand Canyon University has distributed the highest amount of federal student aid among all institutions in the United States over the past four years.

Grand Canyon recently released a statement alleging that federal agencies were unjustly singling out the university with baseless claims as a form of retaliation for a lawsuit the school filed against the Education Department in 2021.

The Grand Canyon faced a lawsuit for being denied nonprofit college status by the agency. In 2004, it transitioned to a for-profit college after receiving financial support from investors. It attempted to revert back to a nonprofit in 2018, but the Trump administration intervened, claiming the college was still closely tied to its former parent company.

Both its accreditor and the Internal Revenue Service recognize it as a nonprofit organization.

Grand Canyon responded to the fine by stating that their cost disclosures have previously been deemed valid in court and by their accreditor in a previous lawsuit. They also expressed concern over a trend of actions taken by the Education Department and mentioned that a request for resolution through a federal mediator was denied.

The school stated that this strongly indicates their intention to cause harm to the university and the organized actions being taken against GCU.

The total number of students at the Phoenix campus of the university is approximately 20,000. However, the majority of its enrollment is made up of students who are not from Arizona and take online classes. In 2021, there were 80,000 enrolled students in online programs, with an equal distribution between undergraduate and graduate programs.

The penalty was praised by organizations that support individuals with student loans.

Aaron Ament, president of Student Defense, stated that when colleges deceive students, it results in wasted time and money. He expressed satisfaction with the Department of Education’s efforts to stop graduate schools from providing false information about program costs, and hopes they will continue to address these exploitative tactics.


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