Grand Canyon University Fined: Bias Against Christian Colleges?

Evan Poellinger | December 19, 2023
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Grand Canyon University (GCU) was fined $37.7 million, allegedly in a thinly veiled attempt to target the school for its status as a successful Christian college according to the Goldwater Institute.

The fine, which was imposed in November, was ostensibly adjudicated because of GCU’s apparent failure to disclose to PhD students that they might need to take continuing courses during doctoral dissertation work. Adding to the intrigue, the penalty leveled against GCU is exponentially more severe than the $2.4 million and $4.5 million fines assigned to Penn State University and Michigan State University respectively over the Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar molestation cases.

The Media Research Center (MRC) had the opportunity to speak with Matt Beienburg, the Goldwater Institute’s director of education policy. Beienburg told MRC that the Goldwater Institute became aware of the case after the Department of Education (DOE) released its accusations against GCU.

Beienburg noted that the accusation by the DOE contained “inflammatory and aggressive language” and added that the DOE’s claim that GCU failed to disclose tuition rates to its students was untrue and that GCU merely “did not disclose the information the way that the Department of Education demands.”

Beienburg also questions the credibility of the DOE’s accusations, since the DOE implied that GCU “misled 7,500 students - even without any students coming forward and saying that they felt like they were somehow misled or defrauded.” Instead, “the U.S. department is taking it upon itself to throw this extremely punitive fine at the university,” all while alleging that GCU’s advanced doctoral students “are incapable of understanding this information. Really strange credulity on this.” In conjunction with the outsized fine assessed to GCU, Beienburg added “all those things together really raise questions about intent and the motivation behind this.”

Beienburg argues that its “highly possible” other Christian colleges could find themselves targeted. Beienburg noted that “Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university, it does not fit the mold of the typical increasingly left of center university. And so it does fit the larger pattern that views these institutions as falling outside what the establishment in both K-12 and higher education want to promote.”

The ultimate outcome of the case still remains up in the air, but Beienburg says the Goldwater Institute is doing what they can to assist GCU in its struggle. “We’re working to get additional information, we sent requests to the Department of Education demanding records around this to really get to the bottom of what led to this, again, a lot of questions around the motivation behind this and what we view just as a really unparalleled punitive approach to a university that had gone out of its way to keep tuition rates frozen.”