A neutral note about Grand Canyon University


by David Safier

Grand Canyon University has been much in the local news lately due to its bid to take over the El Rio site, now off the table, and its continuing efforts to set up a campus in the Tucson area. It's a for profit university, which sets off all kinds of alarm bells these days. Too many of those places are recruiting mills that con ill-prepared students into enrolling and taking out huge loans. Large numbers of those students drop out with nothing to show for the experience but loan burdens that follow them for years while the colleges get fat on the government dime.

I did some quick checking, and it looks like GCU doesn't follow that mold, at least its brick-and-mortar campuses (it also has a large on-line education system). It wasn't prominent in stories about for-profit college rip offs. In fact, as today's Star story notes, it has a reasonably large number of undocumented students because its tuition rate, which is comparable to UA, is the same for everyone (with scholarships lowering the costs for some), so undocumented students who have to pay out-of-state tuition at Arizona's state colleges pay the same as other students at GCU. Though the overall graduatioin rate is lower than at our state colleges, it looks like the college is serious about giving students an education.

I'm not wading into the other controversies surrounding the Christian university that led to the city ending the negotiations over the El Rio site. But unlike, say, University of Phoenix which has a horrible reputation for its recruitment practices, GCU appears to have a more student-friendly recruiting and academic policy.


  1. GCU can still fulfill their mission at another location. The locals clearly want the city to keep a promise made many years ago for more park space in that area. It is also my understanding that their regulations are not favorable to the LBGT community. But, I am not certain of that. I am not in favor of it, because I would like to see Tucson cultivate entities (science or rec oriented) that want to join the 21st Century and beyond, not those that diffuse a philosophy based on a false premise derived from a mythical past. It’s also public property, now, and to sell it to a religious institution is abhorrent to me.

  2. It was my experience with Grand Canyon student teachers and interns that they were well-prepared, and particularly, well-equipped to teach reading. On the other hand, the University of Phoenix student teachers were uniformly substandard; one so poor that I could not in good conscience recommend him/her for employment in education. The UofPHX students had very little opportunity to intern or even observe in classrooms before completing their coursework, little experience with students, and wow . . . it showed. But hey, they got credit for ‘life experience’. For a fee.

  3. On a less neutral note: For-profit universities and colleges have benefitted from the politically conservative trend to make students (via student loans in most cases) bear a much higher proportion of public university tuition and fees. GCU would not be near parity with the University of Arizona in tuition costs if were not for the fact that the U of A now charges for tuition and fees for In-state students something on the order of 16 times more than it did when I began to work toward my Bachelor’s degree. By contrast the average wage has only gone up 2 times during the same period of time. Back in those days in-state colleges were remarkably affordable. An In-state student could attend an ENTIRE year of full-time classes for $500, I remember private colleges at the time cost about $10000 to $20,000/year. Now the two are virtually identical in costs. This is because the state has decreased its support for public universities drastically and to make up for it students have been required to pay nearly the same tuition and fees as for private institutions. This despite the fact that the Arizona State Constitution says that the state shall fund the 3 universities in such a way as to make the costs for an in-state college education ‘as nearly free as possible’ (that’s a paraphrase but close enough). The result is that we now have a flood of private sharks, uh, I mean ‘schools’ circling around students trying to part them from their loan money. Loan money that will saddle students with decades of debt that they would never have had if we still had state-supported higher education. Students graduating with such debt cannot stay in a state as depressed economically as ours is – they have loans to pay off – the best and brightest will go to more forward-looking states where they can earn better wages. Thus we have a brain drain of Arizona youth. Those students would have drawn investment money to Arizona like iron filings to a magnet. And all of this ‘neutrality’ benefits only one group – private universities and colleges at the expense of the state’s economy and future.