Biden’s Education Secretary Vows to Shut Down Largest Christian University in the U.S.

After Miguel Cardona, the Department of Education Secretary, vowed to shut down Grand Canyon University (GCU), the largest Christian university in the United States, GCU officials resisted and said the crackdown came from a “deeply held bias.” 

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on April 10 about cracking down on GCU and similar universities, Democrat Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut asked Cardona how the administration is working to shut down GCU, calling it “a predatory for-profit school.”

Cardona embraced their enforcement methods openly and declared, “We are cracking down not only to shut them down but also to send a message not to prey on students.”

“Last year, your Department took action against Grand Canyon University, a predatory for-profit college, over the school’s failure to accurately disclose its cost to students, driving up the true cost for those students and requiring them to pay for continuation courses before they would graduate—scam courses added about $10,000 or more to the cost of education to these kids,” said DeLauro.

“Going after predatory schools preying on first-generation students. They have flashy marketing materials, but the product is not worth the paper it is printed on and the increased enforcement budget to go after these folks and crackdown. Levied (the) largest fine in history against a school that lied about costs and terminated a school from Title IV. We are cracking down not only to shut them down but to send a message not to prey on students,” responded Cardona.

GCU appealed a $37.7 million fine imposed in November by the department on allegations the higher learning institution misled students about the cost of its doctoral programs over several years.

The fine is much more significant than what the Department of Education gave previously to schools like Michigan State ($4.5 million) and Penn State ($2.4 million) for failing to address the Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky crimes, respectively.

In October, the department said in a press release that an investigation by the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) found GCU “lied” to over 7,500 current and former students about the cost of its doctoral programs. The release additionally said GCU “falsely advertised” a lower price for its doctoral programs, adding that around 98% of students ended up paying more than the advertised cost.

The university was given a deadline of 20 days to request a hearing with the ED’s Office of Hearings and Appeals or file a response to the FSA to explain why the fine shouldn’t be imposed. The Department additionally imposed certain conditions on the institution to continue participating in the federal student aid programs.

A GCU spokesperson says they expect a hearing in January. “Our next recourse after that decision would be another appeal within the Department, this time directly to the Secretary of Education,” said the official.

“This is far from being a few rotten apples in the bunch. Predatory for-profit colleges have engaged in a range of deceptions designed to increase enrollment and student costs to drive more revenue for owners and shareholders,” said DeLauro during the April 10 hearing. “How are you and your agency committing to increased oversight of these institutions and are there any way in which we can shut these folks down?”

Cardona reiterated that the agency employed “multiple strategies” to crack down on for-profit universities, such as “borrower defense, debt discharge, holding colleges more accountable, and holding higher education institutions more accountable.”

Cardona added that for-profit colleges were “preying on first-generation students.”

“You have a shiny brochure and a great commercial. But the product is not worth the paper it’s written on. We have students graduating 60K to 70K dollars in debt, only eligible for jobs making under 30K-that to me is unacceptable.”

A GCU spokesperson said that “officials continue to make derogatory and inflammatory public statements that are legally and factually incorrect and not shared by any of the other 26 regulatory and accrediting bodies that oversee GCU,” in response to Cardona’s comment.

“The Secretary’s comments to the House Appropriations Committee were so reckless that GCU is demanding an immediate retraction, as they do not reflect the factual record in this case. He is either confused, misinformed or does not understand the actions taken by his own agency,” added the spokesperson.

Cardona’s comments followed the announcement of a petition to “protect Christian colleges,” launched by the American Principles Project (APP). The petition was filed in “light of the Biden administration’s unprecedented attacks on our nation’s largest Christian colleges” and demands that “the administration halt their crusade and let students choose the schools that fit their values.”

“The federal government’s education agenda is punishing schools that do not conform to their progressive ideology. It’s time we take a stand against this egregious abuse of power,” said APP Policy Director Jon Schweppe. “The scrutinize-and-penalize campaign against faith-based institutions is not about students’ interests or well-being. Rather, it’s part of a concerted effort to snuff out education choices and promote far-left values. It’s critical that Americans be aware of this shameful campaign and that we do all we can to put a stop to it.”

GCU officials said in response to APP’s efforts that “American people are losing confidence in the federal government to be fair and objective in their operations.”

“There are clearly no checks and balances to prevent this type of behavior from the Department of Education. We support any organization that is willing to shed light on the federal government’s unwarranted and targeted actions against GCU. If they can make these claims against the largest Christian university in the country, other faith-based organizations could be next.