Goldwater Institute Sues the DOE Over Alleged ‘Targeted’ Fine Against Grand Canyon University

Evan Poellinger | February 16, 2024
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The Goldwater Institute has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) over its refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to the department’s assessment of an extraordinary $37.7 million fine against Grand Canyon University (GCU), a private, Christian college.

The Goldwater Institute filed suit after the DOE failed to comply within 20 days with a public record request for communications related to the fine - the largest fine ever of a Christian college - against GCU.

On Thursday, the Media Research Center (MRC) had the opportunity to speak with Goldwater Institute Staff Attorney Stacy Skankey about the suit and the controversy surrounding the fine against GCU.

“The request specifically has two items there that we’re seeking,” Skankey explained:

“One is those email communications between key individuals that are in the Department of Education, but also outside of the Department of Education, and they all relate to the violation that has been alleged against GCU and related to that fine. The second request is for the number of complaints that have actually been submitted by the public related to this doctoral program allegation.”

The allegation in question centers upon “GCU’s apparent failure to disclose to PhD students that they might need to take continuing courses during doctoral dissertation work.”

According to Skankey, “the big thing here that we’re trying to understand here is why that fine is so astronomical, and so what we’re trying to dig into is who actually complained, how many are there, how serious were they seeing this, and just what is going on behind the scenes between these agencies. What are they talking about, what are they coordinating with, to determine that fine as so high and record-breaking?”

As to the next steps the Goldwater Institute plans to take in the event that those allegations are shown to be baseless, Skankey replied, “We would definitely have to take it one step at a time and see what they’re putting forward.”

Skankey told MRC that it is important for the public to understand that “GCU, by all accounts, is a very successful university. It is a private Christian college, which is in stark contrast to what the U.S. Department of Education is pushing, in contrast to what the Biden Administration prioritizes, because they don’t promulgate DEI, they have successful graduates.”

“This just shows to us this targeting of someone who is successful, who is doing things differently than what the public education system is doing right now,” Skankey said.