GCU facing lawsuit from FTC over deceptive advertising, illegal telemarketing

Dec 28, 2023, 8:16 AM | Updated: 8:18 am

Grand Canyon University was sued by the Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 27, 2023, over deceptive m...

Grand Canyon University was sued by the Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 27, 2023, over deceptive marketing, illegal telemarketing. (GCU Photo)

(GCU Photo)

PHOENIX — The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Grand Canyon University of deceptive advertising and illegal telemarketing.

The suit targets GCU’s doctoral programs, accusing the Phoenix-based private Christian university of telling prospective students that the programs were equal to the cost of 20 courses.

The programs, in reality, required that almost all students take “continuation courses” that added thousands in costs, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The U.S. Department of Education, which handed GCU a $37.7 million fine in October for misleading students about doctoral program costs, said that fewer than 2% of doctoral students finished a program within the advertised cost.

The FTC also went after GCU’s claim of being a nonprofit, saying the university has been operating for the benefit of Grand Canyon Education, a for-profit company that provides marketing for the university.

Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and CEO of GCE, is accused of benefitting in the form of bonuses tied to GCE’s performance.

“Grand Canyon deceived students by holding itself out as a nonprofit institution and misrepresenting the costs and number of courses required to earn doctoral degrees,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press release.

“We will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to take advantage of students.”

GCU said it is being targeted.

“The FTC’s allegations related to GCU and GCE are unfortunately yet another example of the Biden administration weaponizing federal government agencies in a coordinated effort to target institutions to which they are ideologically opposed,” the university said Thursday in a statement.

What else is in the FTC’s lawsuit against GCU?

The agency additionally accused GCE, on behalf of GCU, of using illegal telemarketing calls to attempt to boost enrollment.

Grand Canyon University has more than 100,000 students, mostly in online programs. Roughly 20,000 students are enrolled at its west Phoenix campus on Camelback Road between 31st and 35th avenues.

The university allegedly used submitted information to contact people who specifically requested to not be called or were on the national Do Not Call Registry.

What’s the latest on GCU’s $37.7 million fine?

GCU filed an appeal to the DOE fine in mid-November.

If it fails, GCU has said it’s prepared to file a federal lawsuit.

Mueller, in a speech, called the fine “ridiculous” and questioned whether the school is being targeted because of its faith affiliation.

He noted that the nation’s second-largest Christian university, Liberty University, is reportedly being threatened with a $37 million fine over alleged underreporting of crimes.

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the two largest Christian universities in the country, this one and Liberty University, are both being fined almost the identical amount at almost the identical time?” he said. “Now is there a cause and effect there? I don’t know. But it’s a fact.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Roberto Jay Vasquez, 63, went missing on Wednesday, DPS said...

Serena O'Sullivan

Silver Alert issued for missing 63-year-old man last seen walking in Phoenix

The Arizona Department of Public Safety issued a Silver Alert on Thursday evening for Roberto Jay Vasquez, 63, who was last seen Wednesday.

3 hours ago

A lot of money stuffed inside a briefcase....

Fantasy 5 ticket worth $348,000 sold at grocery store in Phoenix

Luck struck at a Phoenix grocery store after one person hit the jackpot in an Arizona Lottery game on Wednesday, officials said.

3 hours ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

4 hours ago

Phoenix child in extremely critical condition after drowning in backyard pool...

Serena O'Sullivan

2-year-old in critical condition after being pulled from backyard pool in Phoenix

A 2-year-old girl is in "extremely critical" condition after being pulled from a Phoenix pool on Thursday evening.

4 hours ago

phoenix police asked public to find homicide suspect after dead body found in canal...

Phoenix police ask for public help in investigation of dead body found in canal

Phoenix police found a dead body in a canal on Wednesday. Now detectives are asking the public for help in finding the homicide suspect.

5 hours ago

Follow @KTAR923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

GCU facing lawsuit from FTC over deceptive advertising, illegal telemarketing