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According to a five-count complaint filed against Grand Canyon Education, Inc., Grand Canyon University, and Brian E. Mueller, the FTC alleges the defendants misrepresented Grand Canyon University as a nonprofit institution, made misleading claims about the cost and course requirements of its doctoral programs, and engaged in deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices, in violation of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Grand Canyon University (GCU) began operating as a for-profit institution in 2004 and in 2008, Grand Canyon Education (GCE) became a publicly traded company. After some corporate transactions in 2018, the defendants began promoting GCU as a private “nonprofit” university. But as the complaint alleges, GCU has been operated for the profit of GCE and its stockholders, and pays 60% of its revenue to GCE pursuant to an agreement designating GCE as the exclusive provider for most university-related services. Despite that arrangement, the FTC says the defendants have deceptively claimed in print, online, and in social media that GCU is a nonprofit institution.

The complaint also alleges the defendants have told students interested in pursuing a doctorate that the total cost of GCU’s “accelerated” doctoral programs was equal to the cost of just 20 courses (or 60 credits). But according to the FTC, GCU “very rarely awards doctoral degrees to students upon completion of 60 credits” and, in fact, requires that almost all doctoral students take additional “continuation courses” which cost students thousands of dollar more. The complaint further alleges that “[m]ost of the students that enroll in GCU doctoral programs never receive the doctoral degree for which they enrolled” and that many of them “are thwarted because they cannot afford the additional costs and time.”

The FTC also says the defendants used illegal telemarketing tactics to try to boost enrollment at GCU. The complaint charges that the defendants made material misrepresentations about GCU and its services in telemarketing calls, called numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, and continued to call people who had previously directed Grand Canyon not to contact them. The FTC says the defendants also made illegal calls to numbers it bought from lead generators.

The case is pending in an Arizona federal court. Even at this early stage, the action demonstrates the FTC’s commitment to protect consumers from alleged misrepresentations and illegal conduct related to education.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Lester Rogers
December 29, 2023

Grand Canyon tried to recruit me offering me a plane ticket ride to there however I was extremely sceptical due to the offer and general area they were located.

Jota Jacobson
December 29, 2023

Thanks, FTC, for being on alert for these schemes and scams. Is there any way that the penalties for violations of the statutes can be increased? In too many cases, deliberate violations of the law are considered no more than a minor "cost of doing business". If the penalties are not adequate, the effort to enforce the law is undercut.

Monica W.
December 29, 2023

I was a student until August 2023 and was fired to leave for another school all the reasons mentioned in this filing. Isnthere anything students can do? I have applied to another school hat was gracious enough to accept me at this point.

Jacqueline C
February 09, 2024

In reply to by Monica W.

I was also a student with plans to compete my degree and had discussed with the heads of the department only to be told I could not return to that program but I could start in a different program. What school are you attending?

Hing Chan
December 29, 2023

Good information. Thank you.

January 04, 2024

great information thanks for useful guide

March 07, 2024

How do I file a complaint about GCU? I've been a doctoral student since 2019 and already in debt for the degree. They changed the pathway after I started increasing my cost. Looking at what I have left to do, this degree would not even be close to the $30,000 I was quoted, it would be more than double that amount :(

FTC Staff
March 07, 2024

In reply to by CRBowling

Report fraud, scams, and bad business practices to the FTC at The information you give is added to a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations and to build cases.

Richard Rodriguez
March 13, 2024

I have been getting constant calls for years from Josh GCU, I told him not to call and I'm on the do not call list.

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