Grand Canyon University

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Grand Canyon University
Former names
Grand Canyon College
MottoFind Your Purpose
Type Private
Religious affiliation
Evangelical Christian
President Brian Mueller
Administrative staff
Students20,500 (on-campus)
70,000 (on-line)
90,500 (total) [1] [2]
Location, ,
United States
Campus Urban
100 acres (0.40 km2) [3]
NewspaperGCU Today
Colors Purple, black, white [4]
Athletics NCAA Division I
Nickname Antelopes ("Lopes")
MascotThunder the Antelope
Grand Canyon University.svg
Grand Canyon Education, Inc.
Traded as NASDAQ:  LOPE
Russell 1000 Index component

Grand Canyon University (GCU) is a private Christian university in Phoenix, Arizona. Based on student enrollment, Grand Canyon University was the largest Christian university in the world with 70,000 students attending online and 20,000 attending on campus in 2018. [5]

Private universities are typically not operated by governments, although many receive tax breaks, public student loans, and grants. Depending on their location, private universities may be subject to government regulation. This is in contrast to public universities and national universities. Many private universities are non-profit organizations.

Phoenix, Arizona State capital city of Arizona, United States

Phoenix is the capital and most populous city in Arizona, with 1,660,272 people. It is also the fifth most populous city in the United States, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents.


Grand Canyon was established by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention on August 1, 1949, in Prescott, Arizona as Grand Canyon College. [6] In 2000, the university ended its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. [7] Suffering financial and other difficulties in the early part of the 21st century, the school's trustees authorized its sale in January 2004 to California-based Significant Education, LLC, [8] making it the first for-profit Christian college in the United States. [9] Following that purchase, the university became the first and only for-profit to participate in NCAA Division I athletics. [10] In 2018, the university received approval from its accreditors to return to non-profit status, which became official on July 1, 2018. [11] Although the educational arm of the college is non-profit it still directly operates alongside the for-profit Grand Canyon Education, Inc. that bundles services for the university to operate. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education continues to classify the university as for-profit. [12] [13] The university president, Brian Meuller, also serves as the CEO of GCE. [14] [15]

Southern Baptist Convention Large Christian denomination in the southern United States

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination based in the United States. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the second-largest Christian denomination in the United States, smaller only than the Catholic Church according to self reported membership statistics.

Prescott, Arizona City in Arizona, United States

Prescott is a city in Yavapai County, Arizona, United States. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city is 39,843. The city is the county seat of Yavapai County. In 1864 Prescott was designated as the capital of the Arizona Territory, replacing the temporary capital at Fort Whipple. The Territorial Capital was moved to Tucson in 1867. Prescott again became the Territorial Capital in 1877, until Phoenix became the capital in 1889.

California State in the United States

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents across a total area of about 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

The university offers various programs through its nine colleges including doctoral studies, business, education, fine arts and production, humanities and social sciences, nursing and health care professions, science, theology, engineering and technology. [16]



Aerial photo of university in 1951 Arial photo of Grand Canyon University (formerly Grand Canyon College) 1951.jpg
Aerial photo of university in 1951

The college was founded as a nonprofit institution in 1949 in Prescott. Arizona Southern Baptists felt the need to establish a faith-based institution that would allow local Baptists the opportunity to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree without going east to one of the Baptist colleges in Texas or Oklahoma. On October 8, 1951, Grand Canyon College relocated to its current location in Phoenix. [17] In 1984, the college's trustees voted to transition the college to a university for the 40th anniversary of the school in 1989, at which time it also changed governance from the Southern Baptist Convention to the GCU Board of Trustees. [17]

Arizona State in the United States

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

Restructuring/conversion to for-profit

Suffering financial and other difficulties in the early part of the 21st century, the school's trustees authorized its sale in January 2004 to California-based Significant Education, LLC, [8] making it the first for-profit Christian college in the United States. [9] Significant Education traded on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol "LOPE."

After the infusion of capital, Grand Canyon University's size increased. After having fewer than 1,000 students enrolled in 2008, the university had 17,500 students in the spring of 2017. [18] As of 2015, an economic impact study revealed that the university adds about $1 billion into the state's economy on a yearly basis. [19] In February 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said that the neighborhoods surrounding the university have experienced a 30% increase in housing values while concurrently seeing a 30% decrease in crime rates. [20]

Doug Ducey American businessman and politician

Douglas Anthony Ducey is an American businessman and politician who is the 23rd governor of Arizona. A Republican, he was sworn in as governor on January 5, 2015. He was the state's treasurer from 2011 to 2015.

In 2008, Grand Canyon was sued by the United States federal government for violating the Department of Education's incentive compensation ban. GCU eventually reached a settlement in the case, and was forced to pay a 5.2 million dollar fine to a former employee and the federal government. [21]

Arizona State University refused to play games against GCU in any sport, even though they are only 16 miles apart, due to GCU's for-profit status and GCU only focusing on raising stock prices. [22] [23]

Return to non-profit status

In fall 2014 the school announced the exploration of a return to non-profit status. [24] Grand Canyon's regional accreditation body, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), rejected the university's petition for conversion to non-profit status in 2016, stating that the school's proposed strategy, particularly its plan to outsource some of its activities (such as curriculum development and student support services) to outside vendors, did not meet the criteria for "such a conversion". [24] [25] [26] In 2018, the university submitted another application to HLC to change to non-profit status. [27] This second application was accepted on July 1, 2018. [28] [29] Although many organizations have approved this transition, the U.S. Department of Education still classifies the university as for-profit; the university plans to challenge the department's ruling. [12] [13]

Grand Canyon University was alleged to switch from for-profit status to non-profit status due to its yearly $9.2 million property tax bill. Numerous school officials said this was unsustainable and was one of the key reasons a required switch from for-profit to non-profit status was made, to reduce that burden. [22] Some critics of for-profit education still criticize that the relationship between GCU and Grand Canyon Education Inc is too intertwined. A former department of education official notes that no other university in the country has its CEO working for its contractor and itself. [14] Brian Galle, Professor of Law at Georgetown Law, has written extensively about the relationship between the non-profit and for-profit entities and argues that because the non-profit is wholly dependent on the for-profit, the non-profit status should not be allowed. [30]

In 2018, Grand Canyon's nursing program was censured by the Arizona State Board of Nursing over test passage rates. The censure came due to the number of first-time students failing to pass the registered nursing exam and after numerous complaints by students and faculty. [31]


In 2006, the college spent US$150 million to renovate the campus, adding a brick promenade, an aquatics center, with pool and hot tub, and a café offering an assortment of games and big-screen televisions. [32]

In 2009, Grand Canyon University's campus began work on a $60 million campus expansion project which includes a 500-bed dormitory, a 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) fitness and recreation center, 125-classroom facility, food court and bowling alley, [33] and a 5000-seat arena. The GCU Arena, which opened on September 2, 2011, [34] is used for concerts, speakers, and other events. The arena is also home to the college's men's and women's basketball teams, and women's volleyball games. [35] The arena was expanded to 7,000 seats with construction beginning in spring 2014 and concluding in August of the same year. [36] [37] Grand Canyon University offers several fast food restaurants, coffee shops, student union, cafeteria, video game room, and six-lane bowling alley for student recreation. [38] In August 2016, the university announced it was establishing a campus police department employing a 177-member police force. [39]

GCU gained widespread attention in August 2016 when it announced its 10 in 2 initiative, the building of 10 on-campus athletic facilities in a two-year span. Highlights of the project included brand new facilities for the university's soccer, baseball, softball, tennis and beach volleyball programs. It also included a sports medicine expansion, an equipment room expansion, practice facilities for the basketball and golf programs, and a student-athlete academic center. [40]

In August 2017, Grand Canyon's Phoenix campus was ranked as one of the 10 Best College Campuses Across America by Town & Country. [41]


Grand Canyon University offers over 200 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs through its nine colleges. [42]

In August 2016, the university announced that it was opening a seminary. [43]

In April 2017, Arizona nursing board officials censured GCU after the school's nursing programs fell below 80% graduation rate for two consecutive years. GCU said it would implement a plan to increase graduation rates. [44] Three months later, the nursing board announced it was pleased with the "tremendous improvements" the university had shown to addressing all concerns. [45] In the second quarter of 2018, Grand Canyon University's nursing students posted a 95.65 percent first-time pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This leads to a year-to-date rate of 92.86 percent, which is higher than the Arizona Board of Nursing's year-to-date statewide average of 91.89. [46]

Grand Canyon University's academic workers include 335 full-time workers and more than 4200 adjunct faculty. [43]

GCU has a graduation rate of 41%, below the national average. [47]


Baseball game, Gonzaga University at GCU, February 19, 2016 GCU Baseball Game 2016 at Brazell Stadium.jpg
Baseball game, Gonzaga University at GCU, February 19, 2016

Grand Canyon University is currently a member of NCAA Division I with most sports participating in the Western Athletic Conference. Men's Volleyball competes in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and Beach Volleyball competes independently. In March 2013, former Phoenix Suns shooting guard Dan Majerle was hired as the 13th men's basketball coach. Majerle oversaw GCU's transition into NCAA Division I basketball in the WAC.

On August 23, 2017, the NCAA officially approved Grand Canyon's move to Division I, elevating the university to active membership status. GCU immediately became eligible for postseason competition. [48]

Recognition, ranking, statistics, and accreditation

Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). According to the HLC, Grand Canyon College entered candidacy for accreditation in 1961. By 1968 the school was regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and remains accredited, successfully renewing its 10-year comprehensive evaluation in 2017. [49] GCU also holds additional accreditations from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Arizona State Board of Educations, and the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The university teachers and administrator preparation programs are approved by the Arizona Department of Education. [50]

In autumn 2015, GCU admitted 58 percent of those applying. [51] The freshman retention rate is 61 percent. [51] U.S. News & World Report classifies the university among "National Universities", wherein it was classified in the 2017 Best Colleges as a Tier 2 institution (meaning its ranking placed it in the bottom 25 percent of institutions in its category). [51]

Notable alumni

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Coordinates: 33°30′45″N112°7′48″W / 33.51250°N 112.13000°W / 33.51250; -112.13000