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Grand Canyon University mulling return to nonprofit status

PHOENIX — Grand Canyon University is considering a return to being a nonprofit, the school announced Wednesday.

“We have decided to look into the possibility of returning the university to its historical non-profit status because we believe it may be in the best long-term interest of our students and our university, as well as our stockholders,” university President and CEO Brian Mueller said.

The school, founded in 1949, switched to a for-profit model in 2004 to pay off millions in debt.

“Without a large donor base to turn to or the ability to rely on tax dollars, the university remained afloat by becoming a for-profit university, securing investor funding and adding an online component to its academic offerings,” Mueller said.

After making the change, the student body and profits skyrocketed. Attendance jumped from 1,000 to 10,000, with another 55,000 taking courses online. GCU plans to hit an on-campus enrollment of 25,000.

Last year, it became the first for-profit school to join NCAA’s Division I. The school joined the Western Athletic Conference in basketball.

Earlier this week, Mueller announced the school would fund the renovation of Maryvale Municipal Golf Course in Phoenix and rename it after the university. The goal is to create a “championship golf course” that can host NCAA tournaments, be utilized by GCU’s golf teams and be a benefit to the community.

The school also began an initiative to rebuild the neighborhood around its campus near 35th Avenue and Camelback Road.

“Every home has a different need,” said Mueller. “Some of them need a front yard, some need air conditioning, some need a new garage door, some need paint.”

KTAR’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.