Grand Canyon University (commonly referred to as GCU or Grand Canyon) is a for-profit Christian research university[3] in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States.

Founded in 1949 as a non-profit liberal arts college, the university was purchased by Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (NASDAQ: LOPE) in February 2004. The university is the first, and only, for-profit to participate in NCAA Division I athletics.[4] As a non-profit, the university had briefly participated in NCAA Division I athletics, from 1995 to 1998, winning several conference titles.

The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in education, liberal arts, business, science, engineering, math, Christian theology, and health care through its eight colleges. The university does not offer two year degrees programs.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education classifies GCU as a research university with moderate research activity.


The college was founded as a nonprofit institution in 1949 in Prescott. Arizona Southern Baptists felt the need to establish a faith-based institution that would allow local Baptists the opportunity to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree without going east to one of the Baptist colleges in Texas or Oklahoma. On October 8, 1951, Grand Canyon College relocated to its current location in Phoenix.[5]

Suffering financial and other difficulties in the early part of the 21st century, the school's trustees authorized its sale in January 2004 to California-based Significant Education, LLC,[6] making it the first for-profit Christian college in the United States.[7]

In the fall of 2014, with the school in a better place financially, it announced the exploration of a return to non-profit status.[8] On March 4, 2016, Grand Canyon's regional accreditation body, The Higher Learning Commission, formally rejected the university's petition for conversion to non-profit status. The commission's board of directors stated that the school conversion strategy, particularly its plan to outsource some of its activities (such as curriculum development and student support services) to outside vendors, did not meet the criteria for "such a conversion."[9][8][10]

In August 2016, GCU announced that it was opening a seminary.[11]


Grand Canyon University has 17 residence halls on its Phoenix campus.[12] In 2006, the college spent US$150 million to renovate the campus, adding a brick promenade, an aquatics center, with pool and hot tub, and a café offering an assortment of games and big-screen televisions.[13]

In 2009, Grand Canyon University's campus began work on a $60 million campus expansion project which includes a 500-bed dormitory, a 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) fitness and recreation center, 125-classroom facility, food court and bowling alley,[14] and a 5,000 seat arena. The GCU Arena, which opened on September 2, 2011,[15] is used for concerts, speakers, and other events. The arena is also home to the college's men's and women's basketball teams, and women's volleyball games.[16] The three-year-old arena is already undergoing major expansion beginning in Spring of 2014 with the goal of expanding to about 7,000 seats.[17]

Grand Canyon's Albuquerque campus offers Master's programs in reading and education and a traditional Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree program.[18]

The university operates several other campuses in Arizona. These campuses, operated by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, are located at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Banner Boswell Medical Center, and Scottsdale HonorHealth. The university also operates a campus in Tempe, AZ, offering various master's programs in education.[18]


Grand Canyon University offers over 60 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs through its eight colleges.[19]

  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Fine Arts and Production
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
  • College of Science, Engineering, and Technology
  • College of Theology
  • College of Doctoral Studies

Grand Canyon University's academic workers include 335 full-time workers and more than 4200 adjunct faculty.[11]

Recognition, ranking, statistics, and accreditation

GCU is licensed by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.[20]

In the 2014–2015 school year, GCU admitted 54.8% of those applying, and had associated costs for tuition and fees of $17,050. It falls into the category of a for-profit Regional Universities (West), wherein it was classified in the 2016 Best Colleges from U.S. News, as a Tier 2 institution (meaning its ranking placed it in the bottom 25% of institutions in its category).[21]

GCU was recognized as a top-five online school for entrepreneurs by Fortune.[22]

Notable alumni

  • Anthony Birchak, professional mixed martial artist (did not graduate)
  • Efrain Escudero, wrestler; professional mixed martial artist
  • Bayard Forrest, professional basketball player
  • Killian Larson, professional basketball player
  • Horacio Llamas, professional basketball player
  • Randy McCament, professional baseball player
  • Moriah Peters, singer-songwriter
  • Cody Ransom, professional baseball player
  • Tim Salmon, professional baseball player
  • Randy Soderman, professional soccer player

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