Grand Canyon University Announces Mesa Campus & Innovates Online

Grand Canyon University has a big beautiful campus in Phoenix and today announced that they will open a 100 acre campus in Mesa. GCU serves 8,500 students at its Phoenix campus. Between the two campuses, GCU plans to more than double onsite enrollment.

GCU serves about 50,000 students online–the opposite ratio of many state universities.  The GGU tuition (about $7,800) makes it competitive with state schools and much cheaper than private alternatives.

Innovative blend. GCU jointly developed and owns a quarter of its LMS, LoudCloud Systems.  A recent update provided updates in “behavioral analytics, task centric design, social collaboration and content personalization.”

CEO Brian Mueller said, “students submit assignments and receive feedback online.”  Some of the onsite courses use textbooks, but otherwise the onsite and online courses are the same content.  Mueller sees “teaching, curriculum, and learning analytics” as an emerging strategic advantage.

Despite the fact that 85% of the students are online, GCU is moving away from adjuncts toward full time online and onsite faculty.  “You can’t build a culture remote,” said Mueller, “We are building collaborative community where the faculty can share instructional materials, students question, and ways to explain difficult concepts.”

Grand Canyon also blends faith and enterprise in unique ways.  GCU is a distinctly Christian university with a stated worldview that is integrated into instruction and campus life. It is also a public company (LOPE) with a $1.5 billion market cap (with a recent increase in share price after skeptical short sellers gave up).

American success story. Brent Richardson joined a nearly bankrupt GCU in 2003 and began engineering the turnaround. In 2004, the university was sold to Michael Clifford’s investor group making it the first for-profit Christian college.

Richardson hired three University of Phoenix executives in 2008 including Mueller, CFO Dan Bachus and COO Dr. Stan Meyer. A year later the company launched an initial public offering–the first IPO on Wall Street after a nearly four-month drought. (I was trying to raise a venture fund that fall and, as you may recall, it seemed like the world as we knew it was coming to an end.)

You may have heard of Early College High Schools (ECHS) where students can earn college credit with their high school diploma. GCU created a faith-based version with the Canyon Christian Schools Consortium, a network of Christian high schools that offer dual enrollment to students and discounted degrees to faculty. GCU also offers families a dollar for dollar discount up to $5,000 in Christian high school tuition that will come off CGU ticket (about $16,500 with room and board). About 150 high schools have joined the consortium.

Mueller sees state universities holding on to general education credits for financial reasons, “The won’t loosen reigns on transfer credits.”  Instead, GCU is committed to “shortening program and lessing cost of a degree.”

The new Mesa campus will help GCU double its physical presence. High quality degree programs and an attractive price point will continue to power GCU growth online.  GCU is a great example of a mission-driven innovator reshaping the higher education landscape.

Press release follows:

Grand Canyon University Selects Eastmark in Mesa for Second Campus

GCU Plans 100+-Acre Campus in the Heart of the Gateway Area

(Phoenix, Arizona) – July 30, 2013 – Grand Canyon University has selected DMB’s newest community, Eastmark in Mesa for its new East Valley location.  GCU will have the right to purchase 100 acres at Eastmark to develop its second university campus, with an option to add up to 60 adjacent acres in the coming years for expansion.

Nearly a year ago, Grand Canyon University (GCU) began a search for a site for their second campus to meet the growing demands for their unique model of higher education in the East Valley.  Their immersive process to understand the population and development growth pattern, as well as the transportation opportunities and the vision for regional development, brought them to Eastmark.

“In selecting the Eastmark site, we were especially impressed with the integrated community concept DMB is creating,” said Brian Mueller, President and CEO of Grand Canyon University.  “This environment will give our students, faculty and staff an exciting place to learn, work and play while being an integral part of the East Valley community.    We believe our presence will benefit the entire region by providing the option of a low-cost, high-quality Christian education to all its residents.”

Eastmark’s team is currently planning the community’s first mixed-use neighborhood center at the northeast corner of Ellsworth and Ray Roads to complement the residential development and the planned university campus.

“We are thrilled to be the future home of GCU, its faculty, students and staff.  Having residential and commuter students at Eastmark every day will add vibrancy to our community.  DMB communities feature a focus on lifelong learning and GCU’s unique model for post-secondary education will bring a wealth of learning opportunities to Eastmark and to all of the East Valley,” said Charley Freericks, President of DMB.

“The East Valley, and specifically Mesa’s Gateway area, is emerging as a destination for high-quality higher education. We are honored to welcome Grand Canyon University to Mesa, Arizona’s newest college town.  We are looking forward to showcasing their university to potential students from around the region and the globe,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.   The City of Mesa recently launched the “Mesa Educates U” marketing campaign to promote Mesa as a premier destination for higher education.

GCU plans to purchase up to 160 acres located east of Ellsworth and Point 22 Boulevard within Eastmark.  The campus will have prime visibility from Ellsworth Road and will have immediate access to a future phase of the Eastmark Great Park.

GCU is currently planning on a seven-year build-out of the campus that will include: offices and administration space, classrooms, labs, library, student union, student dorms, recreational fields and parking.  Construction of the campus is anticipated to commence in 2014 with a potential opening date as early as 2015, subject to appropriate legal and regulatory approvals.

GCU’s team will have space in Eastmark’s Visitors and Community Center (The ‘Mark), in the coming year so prospective students and parents can learn more about the school and the new campus.  GCU is also looking into leasing space in the area in order to begin offering classes in the fall of 2014.  Those students would then transfer to the new campus when it opens in 2015.


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 emphasizes individual attention for both traditional undergraduate students and the working professional in seven colleges: the Ken Blanchard College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Theology, the College of Fine Arts and Production, and the College of Doctoral Studies. GCU offers traditional programs on its growing campus, as well as online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  The University’s curriculum fuses academic and clinical rigor with Christian values to prepare its students to be skilled, caring professionals. For more information about GCU, visit


Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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