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The president of Grand Canyon University (GCU), the nation’s largest Christian university, recently told Fox News Digital in an interview that he thinks the university is being unfairly targeted by the Department of Education (ED) and other federal agencies. GCU President Brian Mueller was asked if he believes the federal government’s investigations are religiously motivated, to which he answered he hopes not.

Mueller told Fox News Digital, referring to a Department of Education probe into Liberty University in Virginia, “Well, they haven’t said it is, and I certainly haven’t said it is. And I hope that it’s not, but that the two largest Christian universities in the country are being investigated. And so, is that a coincidence? I don’t know.” Mueller’s comments came in the midst of the Arizona-based university facing a number of investigations from ED and other federal agencies.

The GCU president argued the federal investigations are linked to the Department of Education denying the academic institution’s effort to convert into a nonprofit institution in 2018. The department denied GCU’s nonprofit status for purposes of federal student financial aid, which continues to classify the school as a for-profit entity. Mueller explained that having a nonprofit status would help the university gain full access to grant writing and research. Furthermore, GCU would also have access to federal dollars due to the institution’s large Hispanic population, which it can’t access due to its current for-profit classification.

Founded in 1949, GCU was a nonprofit institution until 2004. In an effort to increase capital for the university to avoid closing, they partnered with private investors to obtain capital and grow the university. In 2018, the university returned to being a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt Arizona nonprofit status, which they stated was approved by the IRS, Higher Learning Commission, State of Arizona, Arizona Private Postsecondary Board, and NCAA Athletics.

However, the Department of Education rejected its nonprofit request. After failed negotiations on the university’s nonprofit status, GCU pushed back in a lawsuit, arguing the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in 2021. An official from the Department of Education responded to claims made by Mueller in a statement sent to Fox News Digital, claiming the department determined under the Trump administration in 2018 that GCU does not meet the Higher Education Act’s definition of a nonprofit because the majority of GCU’s revenues were allocated to a former owner, a for-profit entity.

“The school sued to challenge this determination twice, and the Department prevailed twice. The school appealed both of those cases. The Department prevailed in the first appeal, and the appeal in the second case is pending,” a department spokesperson said. A judge rejected GCU’s suit last fall on the grounds that the Department of Education has the authority to make such a decision under the Higher Education Act and that they proved their decision was indeed not “arbitrary and capricious.”

Another appeal to the decision will be heard on Dec. 5. While their efforts to obtain nonprofit status are underway, GCU released a statement that accused the Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Veteran Affairs of coordinating an effort to unjustly target the university after they filed a complaint in court about failing to obtain nonprofit status.

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