Biden’s Education Secretary vows to shut down the largest Christian university in the US

After Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed to shut down Grand Canyon University (GCU), the largest Christian university in the U.S., GCU officials are pushing back, telling Fox News Digital the crackdown stems from “deeply held bias.”

Cardona made comments during a House Appropriations Committee hearing about cracking down on GCU and other universities like it on April 10.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., asked Cardona how the administration is working to shut down GCU, which she called “a predatory for-profit school.” 

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

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Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., asked Cardona how the administration is working to shut down “GCU, a predatory for-profit school.”  (House Appropriations Committee)

‘PREDATORY FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE’

“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 requiring for 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,” DeLauro said.

“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. Increased enforcement budget to go after these folks and crack down. Levied 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,” Cardona responded. 

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

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona

Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed to crack down on the largest Christian university in the U.S. (House Appropriations Committee)

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

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

The university was given a 20-day deadline 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 should not be imposed. The Department also imposed specific conditions on the school to continue participating in the federal student aid programs.

A GCU spokesperson told Fox News Digital that they do not expect a hearing to take place until January. 

“Our next recourse after that decision would be another appeal within the Department, this time directly to the Secretary of Education,” the GCU official said.

Grand Canyon University

Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed to shut Grand Canyon University down.

‘HOLDING HIGHER EDUCATION ACCOUNTABLE’

“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,” DeLauro said during the April 10 hearing. “How are you and your agency committing to increased oversight of these institutions and are there anyway in which we can shut these folks down?” 

Cardona said 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.”

In regard to borrower defense, 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.”

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‘INCREASED ENFORCEMENT’

In response to Cardona’s comment about shutting down universities like GCU, a GCU spokesperson told Fox News Digital 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.”

“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,” the spokesperson added.

The president of GCU previously expressed to Fox News Digital sentiments of being “unfairly targeted.”

Grand Canyon University

The president of Grand Canyon University told FOX News Digital that the university is being targeted by the Department of Education.

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‘OTHER FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS COULD BE NEXT’

Cardona’s comments came after the announcement of a petition to “protect Christian colleges,” launched by the American Principles Project (APP).

The petition was launched 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,” APP Policy Director Jon Schweppe said. “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 choice 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.”

In response to APP’s efforts, GCU officials told Fox News Digital that the “American people are losing confidence in the federal government to be fair and objective in their operations.”

Split image of Biden and a building from Liberty University

President Biden with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.  (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images | Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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

Additionally, the Goldwater Institute sued ED in February in federal court for “refusing to turn over public records” related to its $37.7 million fine against GCU. They claimed that the records specifically may inform the public about coordination between various federal agencies in what appears to be the “intentional targeting of a successful university based on extraordinarily thin allegations.”

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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