FTC sues largest Christian university, alleges deceptive advertising

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Grand Canyon University (GCU), marking the second federal agency under the Biden administration to take legal action against the largest Christian school in the nation within the past few months. The university asserts that this is part of a coordinated attack by multiple agencies targeting the institution.

In a press release, the FTC stated that it has sued GCU, along with its marketer Grand Canyon Education, Inc., and its president and CEO Brian Mueller. The lawsuit alleges the use of deceptive advertising and involvement in illegal telemarketing by the defendants.

GCU President Brian Mueller responded to the allegations, describing them as “the height of absurdity” and presenting them as evidence of coordinated and targeted actions by the federal government against the institution. Mueller explained that the FTC took issue with GCU identifying itself as a non-profit entity during an 18-month window after the school transitioned to non-profit status in 2018. Mueller argued that this transition was approved by the IRS, the State of Arizona, and the accrediting body, Higher Learning Commission.

Mueller emphasized that the U.S. Department of Education waited 18 months after the transaction to announce that it would not recognize GCU’s lawful non-profit status for Title IV funding purposes. The Department demanded that GCU not identify itself as a non-profit institution based on concerns that students might confuse its legal non-profit status with the Department’s ‘Title IV for-profit status.’ Mueller disagreed with this opinion but cooperated in good faith.

Regarding the FTC’s claims of “abusive marketing calls” to prospective students by Grand Canyon Education, Mueller denied the allegations, stating, “Sadly, there are no checks and balances in place to prevent this type of blatant and unwarranted government overreach.”