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Biden’s FTC sues nation’s largest Christian college over marketing claims

By Jake Beardslee · December 28, 2023

In brief…

  • FTC filed lawsuit against Grand Canyon University alleging deceptive marketing and illegal telemarketing
  • FTC claims GCU misled students about cost and time required for doctoral programs
  • GCU also accused of falsely advertising itself as a nonprofit institution
  • Lawsuit comes after $37.7 million Education Dept. fine against GCU over similar allegations
  • GCU plans to fight allegations, claiming targeted by Biden administration
The Federal Trade Commission sued Grand Canyon University for allegedly engaging in deceptive advertising about its doctoral programs, misrepresenting its nonprofit status, and making illegal telemarketing calls.  GrandCanyonU/Wikimedia

The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Grand Canyon University (GCU), the nation’s largest Christian university, alleging the school engaged in deceptive advertising and illegal telemarketing practices.

The FTC accused GCU of misleading prospective doctoral students about the true cost and time required to complete its accelerated degree programs. The agency also contends GCU deceived students by marketing itself as a nonprofit institution when it continues to operate as a for-profit school. Additionally, the FTC says GCU violated telemarketing laws by calling individuals registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Named as defendants along with GCU are its partner Grand Canyon Education Inc., which provides marketing services to GCU, and GCU President Brian Mueller, who also serves as CEO of Grand Canyon Education.

The FTC lawsuit follows a $37.7 million fine issued in October against GCU by the Department of Education over similar allegations of false advertising of its doctoral programs. GCU plans to appeal that fine, with Mueller calling it an act of “government overreach,” USA Today reported.

Mueller has previously suggested GCU is being targeted by the Biden administration after the school’s effort to convert to nonprofit status was denied by the Department of Education in 2018.

The FTC is requesting compensation for affected consumers, as well as a court order prohibiting future legal violations by GCU.