The U.S. Education Department is fining Grand Canyon University $37.7 million, saying the for-profit Christian school misrepresented the costs of its doctoral programs.
The agency says Grand Canyon University told students that enrolling in the doctoral program would cost $40,000 to $49,000. That was supposed to cover tuition and 60 credit hours. However, the department says, 98% of doctoral students needed more than 60 credit hours to graduate.
From 2017 to 2022, the Education Department said, 78% of Grand Canyon students who graduated with doctorates needed five or six three-credit courses. That cost another $10,000 to $12,000, and sometimes more.
‘Almost no students are able to complete their doctoral program within the represented number of credits,’ the department said.
In many cases, students could not get federal financial aid for those additional courses.
The Education Department disclosed the fine in a letter to university President Brian Mueller dated Tuesday.
The Phoenix-based college is the country’s largest for-profit college by enrollment, with more than 100,000 students, most of them online, and it received more than $1.1 billion in federal funding under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, primarily for its bachelor’s degree programs. That was more than any other participating school.
The Education Department says 7,547 students enrolled in its doctoral programs from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 19, 2023. The government is fining the school $5,000 for its misrepresentations to each of those students.
The letter to Mueller says that in the few instances that Grand Canyon University did disclose that students might have to take additional courses to complete their doctorates, the disclosures were often incomplete or they were buried in fine print or in long documents, and that those rare disclosures did not address its other misrepresentations or explain the cost of the extra courses.