Is GCU in a Bad Neighborhood? Our Response.

By Traci Williams and Amtruta Chopade

Shot of Phoenix, home to GCU

In Lope Country, our motto is to find your purpose; therefore, our decisions from the very beginning have all had a distinct purpose — including where to place our campus. When Grand Canyon University was searching for land in the Phoenix area, we had our pick of various locations throughout the Valley. Driven by our purpose, strategic plans and Christian focus, GCU chose to build in West Phoenix.

We understand that safety and security are important factors when choosing where to go to college, especially if you are planning to live on or near campus. Doing your research is important and we encourage it. So, if you are asking the question “Is GCU in a bad neighborhood?” we are here to give you the answers.

Many things have changed at GCU since we opened our doors. From 2009 to June 2021, GCU undertook a nearly $1.6 billion expansion of the campus through new technologies, classrooms, laboratories, athletic facilities and amenities — all to benefit our student Lopes. In fact, GCU ranked among the top 20 best college campuses in America and as the No. 1 college campus in Arizona for 2021.1

Originally a Baptist-affiliated institution, the college has expanded its programs beyond religious studies to nine colleges. GCU students have access to highly ranked programs in education, nursing, business, science, technology, engineering, social sciences, fine arts, theology and more.

Why GCU Chose West Phoenix

Since being founded in 1949, GCU saw the needs within our surrounding community. We noted the deficiencies in education, housing, employment and safety. However, we also saw the community's great potential and how our institution could help make a difference in the lives of our neighbors.

Today, GCU continues to operate in West Phoenix and remains strong in our commitment to guide our students to become socially responsible, compassionate servant leaders by making an enduring impact on our local, national and global communities

Most directly, GCU is committed to improving lives in our West Phoenix neighborhood with programs to support K-12 education as well as a successful partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Through our continuous stewardship, GCU has made a positive impact on our immediate community, from reducing crime rates to improving our neighbors’ quality of life.

Case in point, during a speech at GCU in 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that land values around GCU had risen 30%, while crime had decreased by the same percentage. He applauded the work GCU has done, stating “I want to recognize President Mueller, all of the hardworking GCU employees and the amazing students of GCU for the faith-based ideals that have driven all of you to revitalize this community.” 2,3

GCU Volunteers

One of GCU’s goals is to better our neighborhood through service opportunities. GCU students and staff provide hundreds of volunteer hours annually to local nonprofit agencies, including Phoenix Dream Center, Hopefest, American Cancer Society and Phoenix Rescue Mission.

In addition, GCU hosts its own annual signature events, specifically geared toward improving facilities and services for those in our immediate community. These events include Serve the City Days, Salute Our Troops, Canyon Cares Christmas and the Run to Fight Children's Cancer.

GCU is involved in one of the largest Habitat for Humanity projects in the country. As of May 2021, GCU and our partners have collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to contribute over 26,200 volunteer hours, serve over 340 families and complete over 860 repairs since 2015.

This partnership helps neighborhood homeowners make necessary repairs to improve their residences and home values. Renovation projects include painting, landscaping, roofing, new windows, air conditioning and other structural repairs. Habitat for Humanity provides the leadership, tools and equipment, while GCU students and employees provide volunteer manpower as well as subsidies to help cover the costs of the repairs.

There is great mutual benefit in GCU's ambitious neighborhood outreach. Improving the surrounding area makes our campus safer and more inviting. Through this outreach and other GCU initiatives, such as growing campus enrollment from area high schools, the university continues to be a vital part of our neighborhood.

Empowering Our Community Through Education

The GCU Learning Lounge is our answer to improving access to quality education for local K-12 students. The Learning Lounge provides free tutoring and mentoring from our best and brightest students. For more than seven years, the GCU Learning Lounge has provided nearly 150,000 hours of academic support for over 4,900 local K-12 students. 

GCU also launched a Students Inspiring Students scholarship program for high school seniors who seek academic support in the GCU Learning Lounge. To date, Students Inspiring Students has awarded over 350 scholarships to local, low-income students who otherwise may not have been able to afford college.

Creating Jobs in Our Community

In the last five years, our university has launched 10 new business enterprises on or near campus, including a hotel, golf course, two full-service restaurants, a merchandise company, a student ad agency as well as coffee and pizza companies.

These enterprises provide management opportunities for recent graduates and employment opportunities for many graduates, students and local residents, while also providing economic stimulus to West Phoenix.

Partnership With Phoenix Police

The safety of our students and employees is our number one priority. GCU’s Department of Public Safety partners with the Phoenix Police in a neighborhood safety initiative to provide a peaceful and safe campus community. The two agencies work together in this crime-suppression project, which stretches beyond our campus borders and into West Phoenix.

GCU is in the midst of this 11-year, $2.2 million partnership with the City of Phoenix Police Department to pay for officers’ overtime and eliminate crime in the neighborhoods surrounding GCU. This public-private partnership is being lauded as a model for other cities to follow.2

Together, officers from both departments participate in on-campus exercises and trainings to keep our campus community and surrounding neighborhood safe. GCU officers often give Phoenix officers tours to familiarize them with the entire campus in case of an emergency or call for help.

Our Christian Identity

GCU’s mission as a Christian university is to welcome all students of various backgrounds. This mindset extends to the community, as GCU helps its neighbors by increasing property values, creating a safer environment and providing services and programs for those in need. We know that government cannot solve the issues of crime and poverty, so by taking the initiative and developing a strategic improvement plans alongside like-minded partners, we have made great strides in our community — inside and outside our gates.

GCU’s student successes and our growing influence in the community prove we’re right where we need to be. However, GCU’s important work is not done. We believe that God is still shaping our relationship with the community, and we continue to act as His hands and feet to build a better, more sustainable neighborhood for all.

Explore GCU’s award-winning campus and join our ever-growing community of servant leaders. Schedule a guided tour and get started on your journey to find your purpose

Retrieved from:

1 Niche, Grand Canyon University Rankings in 2021 

2 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Office of Education, GCU 27th Avenue Grand Opening, in Feb. 2017 

3 Everett, William (2017, Feb. 15). Grand Canyon University expansion has enhanced the area, officials say. The Republic / Retrieved Nov. 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.