Grand Canyon University (commonly referred to as GCU or Grand Canyon) is a for-profit Christian university in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States.
Founded in 1949 as a non-profit liberal arts college, the university was purchased by Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (NASDAQ: LOPE) in February 2004. The university is the first, and only, for-profit to participate in NCAA Division I athletics. As a non-profit, the university had briefly participated in NCAA Division I athletics, from 1995 to 1998, winning several conference titles.
After the infusion of capital, Grand Canyon University has experienced unprecedented growth. After having under 1,000 ground students enrolled in 2008, the university was home to 17,500 students in the spring of 2017. As of 2015, an economic impact study revealed that the university pumps about $1 billion into the state's economy on a yearly basis. In February 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey noted that the neighborhoods surrounding the university have experienced a 30% increase in home values while concurrently seeing a 30% decrease in crime rates.
The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in education, liberal arts, business, science, engineering, math, Christian theology, and health care through its eight colleges. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education classifies GCU as a research university with moderate research activity.
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.
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, making it the first for-profit Christian college in the United States.
The federal government sued the college in 2008 for violating the Department of Education's "incentive compensation ban", which states that no school that accepts federal financial aid can compensate its enrollment counselors based on their enrollment numbers. The school settled the case and paid $5.2 million to a former employee and the federal government.
In fall 2014, with the school in a better place financially, it announced the exploration of a return to non-profit status. On March 4, 2016, Grand Canyon's regional accreditation body, The Higher Learning Commission, formally rejected the university's petition for conversion to non-profit status. The commission's board of directors stated that the school conversion 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".
In a similar move in 2017, Purdue University announced its intentions to acquire Kaplan University and convert it to a public university. The move is subject to many levels of approval and will have major ramifications for GCU's continuing efforts to return to non-profit status.
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. Just three months later, the nursing board announced it was pleased with the "tremendous improvements" the university had shown to addressing all concerns.
Grand Canyon University has 17 residence halls on its Phoenix campus. 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.
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 m) fitness and recreation center, 125-classroom facility, food court and bowling alley, and a 7,500-seat arena. The GCU Arena, which opened on September 2, 2011, 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. The arena was expanded to 7,000 seats with construction beginning in spring 2014 and concluding in August of the same year. Grand Canyon University offers several fast food restaurants, coffee shops, student union, cafeteria, video game room, and six-lane bowling alley for student recreation. In August 2016, the university announced it was establishing a campus police department employing a 177-member police force.
Grand Canyon's Albuquerque campus offers master's programs in reading and education and a traditional Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree program.
The university operates several other campuses in Arizona. These campuses, operated by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, are located at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Banner Boswell Medical Center, and Scottsdale HonorHealth. The university also operates a campus in Tempe, offering various master's programs in education.
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.
In August 2017, Grand Canyon's Phoenix campus was ranked as one of the 10 Best College Campuses Across America by Town & Country.
Grand Canyon University offers over 200 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs through its eight colleges.
In August 2016, the university announced that it was opening a seminary.
Grand Canyon University's academic workers include 335 full-time workers and more than 4200 adjunct faculty.
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. It is the only for-profit institution at the NCAA's Division I level. 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 all forms of postseason competition.
GCU also has a range of competitive club sports teams such as Men's and Women's Lacrosse and Rugby. Although the Men's lacrosse team has been a part of GCU athletics for some time, GCU did not include the sport in its jump from NAIA to NCAA. As a part of the MCLA, Grand Canyon won the 2015 National Championship as a club team. The 2015-2016 season is the third season for both the women's lacrosse team and the rugby team.
GCU is licensed by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
Grand Canyon University is both regionally and nationally accredited. According to the Higher Learning Commission, 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.
In autumn 2015, GCU admitted 58% of those applying. The freshman retention rate is 61 percent. It falls into the category of National Universities, wherein it was classified in the 2017 Best Colleges from U.S. News, as a Tier 2 institution (meaning its ranking placed it in the bottom 25% of institutions in its category).
GCU was recognized as a top-five online school for entrepreneurs by Fortune.