November 9, 2017
As tuition increases force families to dig deeper into their pocketbooks, Grand Canyon University has redoubled its commitment to making college accessible and affordable.
The private Christian university will freeze tuition on its ground campus for the 10th consecutive year and hold the line on the cost of room and board as well. That means tuition for existing and incoming students will remain at $16,500 for the 2018-19 school year, though the vast majority of students - more than 90 percent - receive institutional scholarships that bring the average tuition cost to approximately $8,600, which is on par with public universities and well below other private schools. That total does not include federal aid such as pell grants and subsidized student loans or external scholarships that lower students' out-of-pocket expenses further.
According to "Trends in College Pricing" released by the College Board last week, the average annual cost to attend a four-year public college in 2017-18 rose 1.3 percent to $9,970, while tuition and fees at four-year private institutions increased by 1.9 percent to $34,740 during the same period. Over the past decade, tuition has risen 37 percent and 26 percent at four-year public and private universities, respectively, while the cost to attend GCU has remained unchanged.
As a result, students at GCU are incurring less debt (an average of $18,750) than the average at public universities ($25,550) and far below the average at nonprofit private universities ($32,300) or for-profit colleges ($39,950), according to data from the Institute for College Access and Success.
"Cost should not be a deterrent to earning a college degree," said Brian Mueller, GCU's president. "Instead, universities must be innovative in their approach to higher education."
As a case in point, Mueller pointed to GCU's hybrid model that serves both traditional and online students. "By leveraging a common infrastructure across two distinct student bodies, that creates tremendous operational efficiencies that have kept tuition costs low and enabled us to invest a record $1 billion in new programs, technologies and facilities during the past 10 years," he said.
To accommodate a boom in enrollment on the ground campus from less than 1,000 students in 2008 to today's total of approximately 19,000, GCU has embarked on an ambitious construction campaign during that time that includes:
- 20 new suite-style residence halls
- More than 1 million square feet of classrooms, laboratories, libraries and office space
- New athletic facilities for basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball
- 22 retail dining options
- Four parking garages
- Major renovations of a 152-room hotel and championship golf course.
All of that has been accomplished in the past 10 years without passing those costs on to students via increases in tuition.
"Our financial model is greatly benefitting students and families," Mueller said. "Ten years without raising tuition on our ground campus, with only minimal increases in online tuition... that's unheard of in higher education."
Just over a decade ago, GCU teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Today, the university boasts more than 91,000 students (72,000 online students in addition to the 19,000 traditional students on its west Phoenix campus) and employs more than 10,000 people, making it one of the largest employers in metropolitan Phoenix. According to a study by Elliott Pollack & Co., the university also contributes $1.1 billion to the state and local economy each year.
Pollack, a renowned economist, told the audience at a recent media event: "I've been in Phoenix since 1964, and this campus is one of the most amazing transformations that I've seen in this time."
In the past 18 months, GCU has also launched eight new business enterprises - a hotel, golf course, two public restaurants, a coffee company, a merchandise/promotions company, an advertising agency and a music recording entity. In addition to providing learning opportunities for students and jobs for residents in GCU's surrounding community, the revenues from those operations are reinvested into the university and help hold the line on tuition.
"The transformation of our campus and surrounding neighborhood has been remarkable, but there is more work to be done," Mueller said. "When we came here nine years ago, we saw the vision of what this university could become. The fact that it has happened this quickly is a clear indication that God has His hand on this place in an incredible way."
About Grand Canyon University: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is Arizona's premier private Christian university. GCU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers more than 220 academic programs, emphases and certificates for both traditional undergraduate students and working professionals. The University's curriculum emphasizes interaction with classmates, both in-person and online, and individual attention from instructors while fusing academic rigor with Christian values to help students find their purpose and become skilled, caring professionals. For more information, visit gcu.edu.
- Bob Romantic
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