FTC Files Lawsuit Against Grand Canyon University for Deceptive Advertising and Illegal Telemarketing

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Grand Canyon University and its president for allegedly engaging in deceptive advertising practices. In the lawsuit, the FTC claims that the university misled potential students pursuing doctoral degrees by providing false information about the cost and course requirements. Additionally, the commission accuses the school of misrepresenting itself as a nonprofit organization and using telemarketing calls inappropriately to boost enrollment.

The lawsuit alleges that the university’s marketing activities have resulted in numerous abusive telemarketing calls to consumers who had specifically requested not to be solicited, as well as to individuals registered on the National Do Not Call Registry. Defendants in the case include Grand Canyon Education Inc., the exclusive provider of marketing services for GCU, and GCU President Brian Mueller

The lawsuit is part of a long-standing dispute between the university and the Biden administration. Previously, the U.S. Department of Education imposed a $37.7 million fine on the university in October for similar claims. Mueller has contested the fine, characterizing it as “government overreach” and suggesting that the university, as the largest private Christian university in the country, is being targeted unfairly. The university maintains its denial of all the allegations put forth by the FTC.

The university’s statement also disputes the FTC’s claim that it operates for the benefit of Grand Canyon Education and that it deceptively presents itself as a nonprofit entity. While the Internal Revenue Service recognizes GCU as a nonprofit institution, the Department of Education classifies it as a for-profit organization for federal funding purposes, which has been a contentious issue for years.

The Education Department’s fine specifically focused on the university’s advertising of its doctoral program. According to the FTC’s news release, the investigation conducted by the Education Department revealed that less than 2% of graduates from the doctoral program completed the program within the advertised costs. Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated that the university misled students by falsely representing itself as a nonprofit institution and providing inaccurate information about the costs and number of courses required to obtain doctoral degrees.

In response to the lawsuit, Grand Canyon University plans to appeal the Education Department fine and continues to assert that the claims against it are baseless. The university condemns what it perceives as the Biden administration’s coordinated effort to target institutions it opposes ideologically.