In a significant legal move, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has initiated a lawsuit against Grand Canyon University (GCU), which is known for its Christian values.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, accuses GCU and its CEO of misleading advertising related to its doctoral programs and making illegal telemarketing calls.
This legal action by the FTC follows a substantial fine imposed by the Department of Education (DOE) in October 2022. The DOE fined GCU $37.7 million for misrepresenting doctoral program costs to students.
The FTC's allegations against GCU, its marketer Grand Canyon Education Inc., and CEO Brian Mueller are severe. The lawsuit claims GCU gave prospective doctoral students false information regarding the duration of their accelerated programs.
Further, the FTC accuses the university of deceptively marketing itself as a non-profit institution. This claim is particularly serious, given the university's prominent Christian ethos.
The FTC's case also highlights a violation of telemarketing laws. The agency alleges that GCU made illegal calls to prospective students who had explicitly requested not to be contacted.
In response to these allegations, GCU has firmly denied any wrongdoing. CEO Brian Mueller stated, "We do not mislead or deceive students in any way."
Mueller also expressed concerns over what he perceives as a targeted approach by various agencies under the Biden administration. He believes GCU is being unfairly singled out.
GCU has announced its intention to appeal the hefty $37.7 million fine imposed by the DOE. This appeal process is essential to the ongoing controversy surrounding the university's practices.
According to the DOE's findings, a staggering 98% of GCU's doctoral students paid more than the advertised cost for their programs. This discrepancy raises significant concerns about transparency in educational costs.
Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized the seriousness of these allegations. He stated:
"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. We will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to take advantage of students."
The lawsuit and the subsequent fine have sparked a debate about the responsibilities of educational institutions in accurately representing program costs and durations to prospective students.
The legal battle between GCU and the FTC is set to be a landmark case in the realm of educational marketing practices. The outcome will likely have significant implications for how universities advertise their programs.
As the case unfolds, it will be closely watched by educational institutions, regulatory bodies, and students across the nation. The impact of this legal challenge could reshape the landscape of educational marketing and compliance.
For now, GCU maintains its stance of innocence and plans to vigorously defend itself against these allegations. The university's future actions and legal proceedings will be critical in determining the final outcome of this dispute.