Article originally published by AZCentral on March 6, 2018.
Grand Canyon University officials announced Tuesday that the school’s accreditor has approved their application to convert to a non-profit.
The Higher Learning Commission’s approval is key for the private Christian school to move forward with plans for non-profit status. The commission previously denied approval for GCU in 2016. But since then, it has come up with additional guidelines for schools that want to convert to non-profits.
“This is consistent with GCU’s history and puts us on a level playing field with other traditional universities with regard to tax status and, among other things, the ability to accept philanthropic contributions, pursue research grant opportunities, and participate in NCAA governance,” GCU President Brian Mueller said in a statement.
More approvals needed
GCU was a non-profit school from 1949 to 2004 before it fell on financial hard times and was purchased by a group of investors. The company went public on the Nasdaq in 2008.
The next step is for the for-profit company that now owns the school, Grand Canyon Education Inc., to sell academic assets to a newly formed non-profit entity. Mueller expects the transition to be complete by June 30.
GCU also will need approvals from the U.S. Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, which regulates for-profit schools in the state. Mueller said he doesn’t anticipate difficulties with those three entities.
Under the plan, GCU will become a non-profit university governed by an independent board of trustees.
The parent company will be a publicly-traded, educational services company that would provide services to GCU and potentially other organizations. Services would include marketing, curriculum development, recruiting, counseling, accounting and human resources.Switching to a non-profit status would allow the university to accept donations and research grants. It also would remove the stigma sometimes associated with the for-profit education industry.
In addition, the school’s residential campus at 33rd Avenue and Camelback Road no longer would pay property taxes.
The university had 90,297 students as of Dec. 31. Most attend online, but the school’s 270-acre residential campus in west Phoenix had about 18,842 students.
About Grand Canyon University
Number of students: 90,297 students as of Dec. 31, 2017.
Programs: Best known for its nursing and education programs. About 220 graduate and undergraduate degree programs and certificates.
Headquarters: 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix.
History: Founded in 1949 as a private, non-profit, Christian college in Prescott. Moved to Phoenix in 1951. The college initially focused on education and then expanded to sciences, nursing, business, music and arts.
Grand Canyon became a university in 1989 and introduced its first online programs in 2003. In 2004, it was purchased by a group of private investors and went public on the Nasdaq in 2008.