Chamber cites hostility from Department of Education, baffling charges against GCU
Chamber CEO: “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.”
PHOENIX — 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 this 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 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 Department of Education has made flimsy and borderline preposterous claims against GCU. For example, the government says that GCU’s estimates of the cost of finishing a doctoral program weren’t sufficiently transparent, despite that GCU provides prospective doctoral students with far more information on costs than ever required by the federal government. The government has also made the baffling 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 believes that the Department’s actions are inconsistent with Secretary Cardona’s stated vision for a new higher education model. GCU, as a disruptor in the higher education landscape, 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.”
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.
The text of the letter follows:
October 25, 2023
Hon. Miguel Cardona
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary Cardona:
On behalf of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, I am writing to express our deep concerns regarding the ongoing challenges faced by Grand Canyon University (GCU), an Arizona-based institution of higher learning, and to seek your assistance in rectifying what appears to be a protracted and unfair level of scrutiny by the Department on GCU.
You have spoken publicly about the need for a cultural shift in higher education to ensure broader accessibility and greater opportunities for students of varying means. Your call for elite institutions to think and act differently resonates strongly with us and aligns with our values and goals for higher education as a path to fulfilling employment. Increasing access to quality postsecondary education positively contributes to social mobility, strengthens our economy, and betters our nation.
GCU, an institution committed to these values, has been instrumental in producing graduates who are well-prepared for today’s dynamic workforce. Not only has GCU maintained its tuition cost for more than a decade, but it also invests in traditionally underserved communities and their K-12 schools, such as in the Maryvale neighborhood the GCU campus calls home, demonstrating a genuine commitment to the betterment of our society.
The ongoing dispute between the U.S. Department of Education and GCU stems from the university’s transition from a for-profit to a non-profit status in 2018, a change recognized by various regulatory bodies, including the IRS, Higher Learning Commission, and state authorities. However, it is perplexing that the Department of Education refuses to acknowledge this transition. The resulting litigation has generated substantial uncertainty and legal expenses, diverting resources that could otherwise be directed toward the university’s educational mission.
But even more concerning is the way GCU is subjected to a level of scrutiny typically reserved for postsecondary institutions that provide students with a poor educational product while encouraging students to rely on loans to finance their schooling. GCU offers the very opposite. Its graduates complete their studies ready for today’s job market. GCU students graduate with less debt, and pay that debt more reliably, than students at peer institutions.
This continued scrutiny not only consumes significant resources but also disrupts GCU’s vital work in preparing students for the workforce and fostering social mobility. The Department’s actions are inconsistent with the call for a new higher education model that you have articulated. GCU, as a disruptor in the higher education landscape, plays a crucial role in making education accessible to a diverse array of students, representing a step towards realizing your vision.
While we recognize the Department’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of higher education, the treatment of GCU seems disproportionate and, at times, hostile. The shifting goalposts, contradictory guidance, and relentless demands placed on GCU are detrimental to the university’s growth and the students it serves.
The Department may be uncomfortable with GCU’s transformative impact on higher education, which 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. We urge you to reconsider the Department of Education’s stance regarding GCU and work towards a fair resolution.
On behalf of Arizona’s job creators, we look forward to the possibility of an amicable resolution to this matter, and we remain open to further discussion and collaboration on this issue. Your support for GCU’s noble endeavors would contribute to a more equitable and accessible higher education landscape, aligning with your vision for the future of education in our country.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
President and CEO