The United States Department of Education has handed down a record-setting $37.7 million fine to Grand Canyon University (GCU) for allegedly lying to more than 7,500 former and current students about the price of its programs.
Grand Canyon University is the nation’s largest Christian university with 118,000 students, roughly 92,000 of whom are enrolled in online programs.
The Education Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office alleges that GCU has been lying to doctoral students and applicants as far back as 2017.
Since that time, GCU has been telling students that programs would cost between $40,000 and $49,000. However the FSA said that data from the school showed that 78% of students paid between $10,000 to $12,000 more.
“GCU lied about the cost of its doctoral programs to attract students to enroll,” said FSA chief operating officer Richard Cordray. “FSA takes its oversight responsibilities seriously. GCU’s lies harmed students, broke their trust, and led to unexpectedly high levels of student debt.”
“Today, we are holding GCU accountable for its actions, protecting students and taxpayers, and upholding the integrity of the federal student aid programs,” Cordray added.
In addition to the fine, the Education Department is ordering GCU to begin accurately reporting the average cost prospective students can expect to pay. GCU will also be required to inform current students of how to report concerns about the university to the federal government.
The Education Department is handing down these penalties as part of a larger plan within the Biden administration to create greater accountability for U.S. universities with regard to student debt.
For the past four years, GCU has disbursed more federal student aid than any other U.S. college or university, according to AP News.
In response to the historic fine, GCU has denied any wrongdoing, saying that it has more than exceeded government requirements by providing cost estimates to applicants to its doctoral programs.