(Daily360.com) – Grand Canyon University (GCU) of Phoenix, Arizona, says federal agencies including the Department of Education (DoE) are coordinating against the school. GCU is the largest Christian university in the United States, which may have made it a target of the federal government according to its president Brian Mueller. He says that his university and the country’s second largest Christian university, Liberty University, were targeted and he fears it may be motivated by their religious beliefs.
Mueller made sure to point out that the government has not admitted they were looking at the schools for religious reasons nor has he officially accused them of doing so. Mueller does however feel it’s likely more than coincidental that GCU and Liberty were targets.
GCU has been trying to convert into a nonprofit institution since 2018 but has been blocked at every turn by the Department of Education. He said they’ve been under a series of investigation since they applied for nonprofit status. GCU has been turned down for the status by the DoE because federal student financial aid puts them in the for-profit sector. Mueller is seeking nonprofit status to help his school gain better access to research and grant-writing. GCU is also looking to get access to more government funding due to their large Hispanic base but as a for-profit they cannot access those funds.
GCU was established in 1949 as a nonprofit but in 2004 they decided to change into a for-profit in an effort to raise private capital in order to stay operational. The original 2018, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt Arizona nonprofit application was approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the IRS but was subsequently denied by the Department of Education.
GCU has so far filed two lawsuits against the Department of Education but has not won either. One of the trial judges explained that the Department of Education has ultimate authority on these decisions because of the Higher Education Act. GCU has appealed the rulings and it is currently scheduled to be heard on December 5th.
The Department of Education is investigating GCU for among other things their doctoral programs for which they are alleging possible misrepresentation of costs. Mueller said he worries that the school may be issued a very large fine by the government agency.
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