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FTC accuses Grand Canyon University of deceptive advertising

Jan. 2, 2024
The agency says the university has misrepresented itself as a non-profit organization.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit accusing Grand Canyon University of deceptive advertising practices

USA Today reports that the FTC alleges Grand Canyon University misled potential doctoral students about the cost and course requirements. In addition, the commission contends the school misrepresented itself as a nonprofit organization and misused telemarketing calls to increase enrollment. 

In addition to the university, the lawsuit names Grand Canyon Education Inc. and GCU President Brian Mueller as defendants. GCE is a for-profit company and the exclusive provider of marketing services for GCU, according to the lawsuit.

The latest development is part of an ongoing dispute between the university and the federal government. administration. The U.S Department of Education levied a $37.7 million fine on the university in October over similar claims.

Mueller has disputed the fine, describing the lawsuit as “government overreach," and said the school, the largest private Christian university in the country, was being targeted. 

Grand Canyon University disputes the FTC's accusations that it is operating for the profit and benefit of Grand Canyon Education and that it has deceptively marketed itself as a nonprofit.

The Internal Revenue Service has given the GCU nonprofit status, but the Department of Education classifies the institution as a for-profit for purposes of federal funding, which has been a sore spot for years.

"Grand Canyon deceived students by holding itself out as a non-profit institution and misrepresenting the costs and number of courses required to earn doctoral degrees," said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a news release. "We will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to take advantage of students."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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