Grand Canyon University (GCU) President Brian Mueller says the allegations made in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) lawsuit against the school this week are “the height of absurdity” and further proof of what he says are coordinated and targeted actions being taken by the federal government against the institution.
The FTC on Wednesday announced that the agency is suing GCU, its marketer Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (GCE), and Mueller personally, claiming the defendants deceptively marketed the school as a nonprofit, misled prospective students about costs and engaged in illegal telemarketing.
Mueller said in a lengthy statement Thursday that the fact that the FTC is taking issue with GCU, the largest Christian university in the U.S., identifying itself as a non-profit entity during an 18-month window after the school transitioned to become a non-profit in 2018 is “nonsensical.”
“That transaction was blessed by the IRS, State of Arizona and our accrediting body (Higher Learning Commission), so of course we identified ourselves as a nonprofit because we were… and are,” Mueller said.
“The U.S. Department of Education waited 18 months after the transaction to announce it would not recognize our lawful nonprofit status for the purposes of Title IV funding and demanded at that time that, moving forward, GCU not identify itself as a nonprofit institution based on unsupported speculation that students would confuse GCU’s legal nonprofit status with the Department’s so-called ‘Title IV for-profit status.’ We disagreed with that opinion but cooperated as a good faith gesture,” he argued.
“For the FTC to say now, five years later, that identifying ourselves as a nonprofit institution during that 18-month window was somehow ‘deceptive advertising’ is meritless and the height of absurdity,” he continued.
Meuller also denies the FTC’s claims that GCE engaged in “abusive marketing calls” to prospective students.
“GCE does not make cold calls to prospective students on behalf of GCU. It only reaches out to those who have inquired about GCU’s programs or otherwise expressed interest in attending the university,” Mueller said.
“That practice is common among higher education institutions and other entities, yet GCU is being singled out in a blatant example of selective enforcement by this federal agency.”
The GCU president said other FTC allegations related to doctoral disclosures and the university’s relationship with its service provider are “the same baseless claims” made by the Department of Education, which fined the school $37.7 million in October.