Grand Canyon University’s non-profit status decision expected soon


Higher education reporter Anne Ryman of The Arizona Republic gives five tips to find free money for college. Hannah Gaber/

Switching to non-profit status would allow the university to accept donations and research grants and remove the stigma sometimes associated with the for-profit education industry.

Grand Canyon University officials expect the school’s accreditor to act later this week on the university’s application to convert to a non-profit. 

The Higher Learning Commission’s approval is key for the private Christian school to move forward with plans for non-profit status. The commission previously denied approval for GCU in 2016. But since then, it has come up with additional guidelines for schools that want to convert to non-profits. 

“It could be up to two weeks until we officially hear the result of the vote,” said Brian Mueller, GCU president and CEO, in a conference call Wednesday to discuss financial results. 

GCU also would need approvals from the U.S. Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, which regulates for-profit schools in the state. Mueller said he doesn’t anticipate difficulties with those three entities. 

What a non-profit would look like

Under the application submitted in December, GCU would become a non-profit university governed by an independent board of trustees. The parent company would be a publicly-traded, educational services company that would provide services to GCU and potentially other organizations.

MORE: Grand Canyon University will again seek non-profit status

Services would include marketing, curriculum development, recruiting, counseling, accounting and human resources.

Mueller said on Wednesday that a service agreement between the two entities would still need to be worked out and wouldn’t be signed until the Higher Learning Commission process is finished. 

He added he believes the application now before the commission addresses any concerns that members had when it was previously denied. He can’t give any assurances the commission will approve the application, but he said the response so far has been “very positive.” 

Switching to a non-profit status would allow the university to accept donations and research grants. It also would remove the stigma sometimes associated with the for-profit education industry. In addition, the residential campus at 33rd Avenue and Camelback Road no longer would pay property taxes. 

GCU was a non-profit school from 1949 to 2004 before the school fell on financial hard times and was purchased by a group of investors. The company went public on the Nasdaq in 2008.

Enrollment has boomed since. 

The university had 90,297 students as of Dec. 31. Most attend online, but the school also has a 270-acre residential campus in west Phoenix with about 18,842 students. 

MORE: Grand Canyon University expansion has enhanced the area, officials say

About Grand Canyon University

Number of students:  90,297 students as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Programs: Best known for its nursing and education programs. About 220 graduate and undergraduate degree programs and certificates.

Headquarters: 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix.

History: Founded in 1949 as a private, non-profit, Christian college in Prescott. Moved to Phoenix in 1951. The college initially focused on education and then expanded to sciences, nursing, business, music and arts.

Grand Canyon became a university in 1989 and introduced its first online programs in 2003. In 2004, it was purchased by a group of private investors and went public on the Nasdaq in 2008.

Reach the reporter at 602-444-8072 or [email protected]


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