Lawsuit against GCU thrown out by Atlanta court

May 18, 2020 / by / 3 Comments


(May 18, 2020) — Grand Canyon University is sharing this statement with its stakeholders to provide an update on a class-action lawsuit that was filed in July of 2019 – which the University addressed publicly at that time in this statement.

As expected, the lawsuit has been dismissed by the U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The court ruled on May 11, 2020, that GCU’s Enrollment Agreement “clearly stated” that the plaintiff’s academic program would not lead to licensure in Georgia and that the plaintiff would have known that “had she read the Enrollment Agreement.”

The frivolous lawsuit was filed on July 18, 2019, on behalf of Debra Austin and another plaintiff and became the lead story on the Arizona Republic’s website the day it was filed. The Republic has yet to report the lawsuit has been dismissed.

Austin alleged that GCU’s “misrepresentations or omissions caused her to believe, wrongly, that completion of her graduate program would lead to licensure in Georgia.” However, the court ruled that Austin’s “belief would have quickly been corrected had she read the Enrollment Agreement she signed on October 16, 2013 — which clearly stated, under a bolded heading reading ‘Georgia Authorization’: ‘This program is not intended to lead to licensure or certificate advancement through the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (‘GaPSC’).’”

Austin’s Enrollment Agreement is a page-and-a-half in length, and the bold Georgia Authorization heading is listed prominently on the first page.

The complaints in the lawsuit were also presented in September to the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education (AZPPSE), which is the state regulatory authority for GCU. AZPPSE declined to open an investigation into the matter after reviewing the allegations, citing a lack of any legitimate substance in the complaints.

The Georgia court dismissed other plaintiffs’ claims in the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction. This is the second lawsuit against GCU filed by the same Georgia law firm that has been dismissed.

“It was pretty clear from the outset that this case lacked merit and would be dismissed, yet for some reason it became front-page news,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “We expect the other plaintiffs’ cases that lacked jurisdiction will either not be re-filed or will also be dismissed.”

The Arizona Republic wrote a 1,000-word story on the lawsuit the day it was filed that went into great detail on the allegations from two plaintiffs, including an interview with Austin. GCU was given a two-hour window by reporter Rachel Leingang in which to respond to the 54-page document even though it had just been filed that afternoon and the University had not yet been officially served with the complaint or even knew such a lawsuit existed. Leingang provided GCU with a copy of the lawsuit, which the University’s legal representatives could not verify was authentic until obtaining one from the Georgia court system the following day.

Mueller said the University is considering all options, including seeking to recover its attorney fees from the plaintiffs, and any other legal remedies given that publicity of this baseless lawsuit resulted in significant economic and reputation harm to GCU. For example, the Pittsburgh Public Schools cited the lawsuit when it canceled a partnership agreement it had with GCU to provide higher education opportunities that would have increased diversity of teachers in its K-12 schools.

“GCU is not a litigious organization, but it’s unfortunate that frivolous lawsuits such as this warrant this kind of attention,” Mueller said. “GCU currently serves more than 100,000 students and is now producing 25,000 graduates on an annual basis. Out of those hundreds of thousands of students in the past 10 years, this law firm ultimately found four who felt they did not have a good experience.

“The experience for the other 99.99% is that our enrollment process is extremely transparent as it relates to financial aid, degree requirements, responsible borrowing, state compliance and counseling services. We have also had roughly 20 universities visit GCU in the past few years to learn more about our processes, and they universally state that our level of transparency throughout the enrollment process and technological advancements exceed anything they have seen. That will continue to be our focus moving forward.”


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3 Responses
  1. Michael W. Thomas

    There will always be those who will search and try to find a way to gain when there is never a way for a gain to be made. I also would get with the newspapers rival and explain this story to them and let them write an article clearing GCU of any wrongdoing, and make sure they have all the information as written here and any other information.

    May.20.2020 at 2:32 pm
  2. Kevin Fordham

    I’m a student and I can honestly say GCU never promised me A LICENSE IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA WHERE I LIVE. ITS UNDERSTOOD that it is each student’s responsibility to know their state laws and requirements to get a licensure for the state they intend to work. I guess sometimes individuals get excited and hear what they want to hear. GCU OFFERS THE KNOWLEDGE TO GET THE DEGREE OF YOUR CHOICE. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A DEGREE TO GET LICENSURE, YOU HAVE TO RETAIN KNOWLEDGE AND STUDY. There are many organizations that may help a student study and prepare for licensure. But they are not associated with GCU. GCU REALLY CARES AND HELPS THEIR STUDENTS, THEY PREPARE US FOR OUR FUTURE. Sorry for grammatical errors, I’m on a cell phone not my computer

    May.20.2020 at 11:48 pm
  3. Susan M Appier

    I had a wonderful and valuable experience at GCU on-line, received a Business Degree in Applied Management. I was honored to walk on my day of Graduation. Wish they had a Fine Arts Program for me as an artist I would definitely attend.

    Oct.06.2020 at 5:22 am
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