In a show of legislative solidarity, Arizona Senate and House leaders sent a letter protesting the Biden administration’s ongoing war on Christian schools. Today’s letter, signed by Senators Petersen, Shamp, and Bennett and cosigned by representatives Toma and Pingerelli, outlines concerns over the DoE’s refusal to recognize Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University (GCU) as a nonprofit. The ongoing refusal stems from the University’s threatened lawsuit after the DoE surprisingly denied GCU’s 2019 application for nonprofit status, a point that raised the eyebrows of many higher-education observers given President Trump’s support of Christian organizations.
The Department’s 18-page denial focused on the University’s publicly traded parent company, Grand Canyon Education. Despite making a myriad of recommended changes to its operating agreement, the denial continued, prompting litigation by GCU.
In a 2021 statement, the University stated, “The Department of Education’s refusal to recognize GCU as a nonprofit institution … is clearly arbitrary and capricious. GCU’s nonprofit status is recognized by the IRS, the State of Arizona, the Higher Learning Commission and every other regulatory body that governs the University … The university cannot sit idly by as the Department of Education refuses to recognize the positive impact GCU’s financial model has had on the GCU community.”
Over the past decade, GCU became one of the largest for-profit college programs, with approximately 110,000 students. It’s also one of several seeking to convert to nonprofit status. Recently converted schools, including Ashford University, acquired by Arizona University, Kaplan University (part of the Purdue University system), and Pittsburg Technical School, to name just a few, had little difficulty in converting, leading critics to focus on the religious focus of GCU. This concern, exacerbated by allegations of anti-Christian bias by the Biden administration stemming from a leaked FBI memo targeting Catholics, triggered the joint legislative response supporting GCU.
In a press release announcing the letter, the legislators expressed dissatisfaction with what appears to be a religiously motivated attack on the Arizona education giant. Senate President Petersen’s quote is representative of the voiced concerns. He stated, “Under Joe Biden’s watch, we not only have the Education Department, but also the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Veterans Affairs all coordinating an assault against Christian education by misclassifying GCU as a for-profit institution, enabling uncalled for scrutiny and damage against the reputation of this prestigious university that has only had the utmost positive impact on our students, our workforce and Arizona’s economy.”
The Arizona Globe reached out to the Senate communications office for information on any planned actions by the State.
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