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Grand Canyon University earns OK on nonprofit application

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PHOENIX — Grand Canyon University moved one step closer to returning to a nonprofit, the school announced Tuesday.

The Higher Learning Commission approved the request, which will eventually split the university from owner Grand Canyon University Education, a for-profit company.

“HLC approval is the major step in this process,” university President Brian Mueller said in a statement. “We’re now working toward finishing up the final details that will allow us to complete the transition by the end of the second quarter of 2018.”

The quest has taken nearly two years. Grand Canyon University was turned down in 2016 when it made the same request.

At the time, the commission, which is responsible for accrediting colleges and universities, pointed to the school’s intention to outsource some services as a major drawback.

The private school at 35th Avenue and Camelback Road was founded as a nonprofit in 1949. In 2004, it moved to a for-profit model to pay off $20 million in debt. Now, it will pay about $850 million to buy specific academic-related assets fro the parent company.

A spokesman said after the sale, the parent company would become a “third-party provider of educational and related services to GCU and potentially, in the future, to other universities,” a model adopted by man universities.

The move still required a “yes” from the U.S. Department of Education and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, the Phoenix Business Journal reported.