PHOENIX — This week the largest freshman class in school history moves onto Grand Canyon University campus. With 3,400 new faces entering the halls, it’s hard to believe the campus was on the brink of bankruptcy just a decade ago.
“Today, we’ve got students coming from out of state,” said Mike McFadden with university admissions. “A couple hundred from Washington, a couple hundred from Oregon, almost a thousand from California, Nevada, Colorado.”
Dean of Students Pastor Tim Griffin stands outside with hundreds of volunteers greeting parents who drove cross- country with their kids. They’re queued up in lines wrapping around the dormitories.
“We have about 300 students that are lugging luggage from the cars lined up outside the doors, up to the students’ rooms,” he said. “Many of them were freshmen last year and they came back to kind of pay back the experience that they had last year when they were freshmen.”
Volunteers have grabbed boxes, bins and baggage and hauled them up two to five flights of stairs. When a piece of luggage gets lost, no one panics.
Griffin said there is a code of conduct instilled in the students — to serve.
It appears to be working. The incoming freshmen will bring the school’s enrollment to about 11,000 students on campus, up 25 percent since last year.
“Our average student has a GPA of 3.5,” McFadden bragged. A decade ago, academic standouts wanting a faith-based education looked to campuses such as Pepperdine University near Los Angeles, Baylor University in Texas, or Wheaton College near Chicago. But many students are turned off by the higher price tags.
“Paying 30, 40, $50,000 a year, for some students … it’s just not an option,” McFadden said.
Students don’t pay out-of state tuition or taxes. The average scholarship brings the total out-of-pocket tuition of most students to $7,800 a year.
It helps that the former Baptist college changed executive management in 2004 and became a publicly traded interdenominational institution in 2008.