Sybil Low by Sybil Low

The U.S. Education Department has imposed a hefty fine on Grand Canyon University, alleging misleading information about the costs of its doctoral programs.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Grand Canyon University faces a $37.7 million fine from the U.S. Education Department.
  • The fine is linked to allegations of misleading information about doctoral program costs.
  • GCU has defended its disclosures and believes it is being singled out by the department.
  • The department encourages affected students to file claims for potential loan cancellations.
  • Transparency in educational costs remains a pivotal concern for students and institutions alike.

The landscape of higher education is vast and varied, but integrity and transparency are fundamental values that all institutions must uphold. Recently, Grand Canyon University (GCU), based in Phoenix, has come under scrutiny by the U.S. Education Department. The department claims that the university provided misleading information about the costs of its doctoral programs to over 7,500 students.

Investigation Details and University’s Response

The U.S. Education Department’s investigation has led to a $37.7 million fine against GCU. The heart of the issue revolves around the representation of the doctoral program costs. According to the department, GCU had been advertising since 2017 that these programs would cost students between $40,000 and $49,000. However, the enforcement unit of the Federal Student Aid office found that fewer than 2% of GCU graduates ended up paying within that range. A significant number of students reportedly had to incur additional costs, sometimes as much as $12,000 more, due to extra courses required for their dissertation.

GCU has responded to these allegations, emphasizing the commonality of continuation courses in doctoral programs across many educational institutions. They assert that they have been transparent in their marketing materials, which include financial disclosures prominently.

“We believe our disclosures related to continuation courses are more extensive than other universities, yet only GCU is being targeted by the Department.”

Richard Cordray, head of the Federal Student Aid office, has voiced concerns about the way these disclosures are presented.

“The disclosures are buried in dense documents. They’re much less prominent than the misrepresentations made, and they do not cure the net impression that the program will be less expensive and will require fewer credits than it actually does.”

Furthermore, the relationship between GCU and the Education Department appears to have more layers. GCU has an ongoing lawsuit against the department regarding its bid to transition from a for-profit to a nonprofit institution. This month, GCU released a statement suggesting that multiple agencies, including the Education Department, might be targeting the university due to the lawsuit. They highlighted the extensive requests for information and records about their operations, deeming it a “broad fishing expedition.”

In light of the allegations surrounding deceptive marketing, GCU has defended its position, stating that they provide a level of transparency about the estimated costs that goes beyond legal requirements. They also pointed out that the claims aren’t based on student complaints but are the department’s perspective.

While the hefty fine is significant news, it’s crucial to note that the fine did not offer any direct relief to GCU students. However, the department is urging students who believe they were misled by the pricing to come forward and file a borrower defense to repayment claim. This could potentially lead to the cancellation of their federal student loans.


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