Paul L. Caron

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Nation's Largest Christian University Says Biden Administration Is Unjustly Targeting It

Grand Canyon University News, Government Agencies Unjustly Targeting GCU (Oct. 4, 2023):

Grand Canyon 3Government officials associated with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and under the authority of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are coordinating efforts to unjustly target GCU in what appears to be retaliation for the university filing an ongoing lawsuit against ED regarding its nonprofit status. While such accusations may sound extraordinary, the facts in this document make clear that this is occurring at an alarming level for government agencies to be taking against the largest Christian university in the country. ...

GCU’s innovative approach to higher education has allowed it to go from an institution on the brink of closing to becoming the largest private Christian university in the country. It has become an American success story because it has focused on providing academic programs in creative delivery formats to help a greater percent of the population access higher education in order to meet their career and life goals.

Now, for political or ideological reasons we don’t understand, some in our federal government want to undermine those efforts. While we have taken the high road and continuously worked cooperatively and professionally with these individuals over the past five years, given their clear motivations and recent actions, we can no longer stay silent and allow their coordinated efforts to impugn the reputation of this university and the many faculty and staff who go above and beyond to ensure we provide the best possible service to our students.

Inside Higher Ed, Grand Canyon University Lambastes Federal Agencies in ‘Unusual’ Public Statement:

Grand Canyon University is alleging that three federal agencies have coordinated their investigations to “unjustly target” the institution for “political or ideological reasons we don’t understand.” It’s the latest development in a years-long dispute between the university and the Education Department over its bid to become a nonprofit.

The university says it is feeling attacked on several fronts, with multiple federal agencies or oversight bodies—including the Education Department, the Federal Trade Commission and a state arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs—questioning its practices.

In a lengthy statement posted on its website Thursday and also sent to media outlets, Grand Canyon officials provided detailed responses to those investigations or findings and outlined their own allegations that the agencies are retaliating against the university for its 2021 lawsuit against the Education Department.

Grand Canyon, a Phoenix-based private Christian university with nearly 120,000 students on campus and online, sued the department after the agency rejected its application to convert from for-profit to nonprofit status. The department questioned whether Grand Canyon University had sufficiently separated from its former owner, Grand Canyon Education, a publicly traded company that continues to provide marketing, recruitment and support services to the institution. The university’s president also serves as CEO of Grand Canyon Education.

A federal judge ruled late last year that the department acted lawfully. Grand Canyon has appealed that decision. In the wake of the lawsuit, Grand Canyon officials wrote that they received “broad requests for voluminous amounts of information and records about our operations” from federal agencies. ...

Grand Canyon has spent years trying to convert from a for-profit to a nonprofit institution. The university became a for-profit in 2004 in response to financial difficulties and saw its enrollment skyrocket thanks largely to its online programs. In 2018, the university attempted to switch back to nonprofit status, in part because of the stigma associated with being a for-profit. The sector has come under additional scrutiny from federal agencies in the past decade, leading some, such as ITT Technical Institutes, to close entirely.

Grand Canyon is now recognized as a nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service, but it can’t market itself that way until the Education Department approves the conversion. Other regulators, including the university’s accreditor, have approved the switch.

“People are wondering why, and it’s a difficult thing to explain,” said Brian Mueller, president of Grand Canyon University and CEO of Grand Canyon Education, in an interview Thursday. “We don’t know why it is happening. From our standpoint, it runs its course. Faculty and staff have had it with this whole thing.”

The Federalist, Christian University Blasts ‘Obviously Political’ Harassment From Education Department:

Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller told The Federalist the Education Department’s efforts are “obviously political.”

“We have tried to stay above the political fray,” Mueller said, but “it’s very obvious that we are being targeted.” When asked whether he thought the bureaucratic targeting was “religiously motivated,” Mueller said, “I don’t know.”

Washington Examiner, Christian University Alleges Biden Administration Launched 'Bad Faith' Investigations

Mueller speculated that the government agencies have launched the investigations into Grand Canyon in part because they see the Christian university as more conservative, but he said there was no way to know the administration's true motivation.

"We're well supported locally in our state by both Republicans and Democrats, and so people say, 'Why are they doing this? Is it ideological? Is it political? Is it religious?' The answer is we don't know," Mueller said, noting that all the things that could typically trigger an investigation — student complaints, high default rates, high debt amounts, inferior facilities, inferior faculty, lack of jobs for graduates — did not apply to the university.

"We have stellar marks in all those areas," he added. "There's just no reasonable explanation for why this is happening."

Mueller said he is only left assuming that the agencies are not dealing with the school "in good faith" and that the institution has only been granted one 45-minute meeting with federal officials over the last five years.

"There is no corroborating evidence that somehow we need to be investigated because we're a bad player in higher education," he said. "And so it feels that there is some ideological thing that's driving this because we can't explain it any other way."

Chronicle of Higher Education, Country’s Largest Christian University Alleges Government Persecution

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