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Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university that prides itself on helping students find their purpose and achieve their dreams while bringing Christian values and ethics to the workplace. Founded in 1949 as Grand Canyon College in Prescott, Arizona, the institution relocated to Phoenix in 1951 on land donated by the First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix. GCC was renamed Grand Canyon University in 1989.

In the early 2000s, Grand Canyon University transitioned out of nonprofit status to a new business model to address a reduction in financial resources. This transition enabled GCU to place renewed focus on the education of working professionals. This included an emphasis on nursing and education, as well as expansion beyond the confines of its physical campus and into online degree programs.

Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Many of its colleges and programs have also obtained specialized accreditations and approvals including:

  • The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • Arizona State Board of Education
  • The Arizona Department of Education
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Arizona State Board of Nursing
  • New Mexico Board of Nursing
  • The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
  • National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC)

Different states have different educational and licensing requirements, particularly for nursing and education programs. Regardless of a GCU student's major or degree, the institution's goal is to "prepare learners to become global citizens, critical thinkers, effective communicators and responsible leaders." The four pillars upon which GCU is founded are academic advancement, Christian camaraderie, extra-curricular excellence and wellness and well-being.


Today, Grand Canyon University offers more than 100 bachelor's degrees, 100 master's degrees, and thirty doctoral degrees. Many of these degrees offer a specialized curricular focus -- for example, the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Higher Education Leadership versus the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership. Offering such a wide variety of specializations increases the odds a prospective student may find a degree that aligns with their goals.

GCU also offers its degrees a variety of formats including traditional in-person, evening in-person and online degree programs. This enables individuals to find a format that's convenient for both their lifestyle and their learning style. Whether students are of traditional college age or are busy working professionals seeking personal fulfillment or the educational credential necessary to advance their careers, Grand Canyon University has a wide variety of options. Fortune identified GCU as one of the top five e-schools in 2014.

Cost to attend

Grand Canyon University doesn't differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students for either its in-person or its online formats. As of the 2015-2016 academic year, in-person undergraduate students are charged $687.50 per credit hour if less than full time or $8,250 per semester for full-time status (12-18 credit hours). Graduate tuition for in-person students in master's degree programs is $390 per credit hour. Students living on campus in residence halls are also required to purchase a meal plan.

Tuition for online degree programs varies by program, but online undergraduate students can expect to pay $465 per credit, and most online master's students will pay $495 per credit. Online doctoral students pay $630 per credit. Specialized graduate degree programs including education, business, or nursing charge different rates, but all of such rates are less than the doctoral rate. Online students obviously don't have to live in residence halls or pay for meal plans, and indeed many online students are able to work full-time and live at home while pursuing their desired degree or certification.

Ultimately, program costs depend on a variety of factors including undergraduate or graduate status, as well as the number of credit hours required to complete the program. Students seeking professional certifications or licenses may also have to fulfill additional requirements of the relevant professional body.

Financial aid

Since Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited, students are eligible for federal loans and grant programs including:

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford loans
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loans
  • Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans
  • Perkins Loans (expired 9/30/17, although Congressional bills have been introduced that support its extension)
  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
  • Federal Work-Study Program (in-person students only)

Students may also be eligible for state based aid in their state of residence. Arizona-based students, for example, may be eligible for the AZ Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP), AZ Math, Science and Special Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (MSSE), or AZ College Access Challenge Last Strength Scholarship (CACLSS). Students are also encouraged to seek out scholarships from external entities. Resources for doing so are easily available from GCU's website.

Online offerings

The vast majority of GCU's degrees are available as online degree programs. The university is organized into schools offering programs in a variety of academic areas including:

  • Business & Management
  • Nursing & Health Care
  • Teaching & School Administration
  • Psychology & Counseling
  • Theology & Ministry
  • Performing Arts & Creative Design
  • Medical Studies & Athletic Sciences
  • Criminal, Political & Social Sciences
  • Engineering & Technology
  • Language & Communications

All of Grand Canyon's online degree programs use the same educational delivery platform, which means students have a consistent format in each of their classes. Interaction is asynchronous, so students sign on, respond to message boards and see professor notes at their own convenience, 24/7. Online classes are offered one at a time and GCU has faculty dedicated full-time to online students and programs.

Highlighted programs

Master's of Education in Elementary Education

The Master of Education in Elementary Education (Eligible for Institutional Recommendation/Credential) is designed for individuals seeking initial teaching licensure in elementary or middle school education. Many of the courses guide teacher candidates through observational and practice-based experiences. As a result, students must have access to a grade 1-8 classroom to complete assignments.

The final semester includes a full-time, 15 week student teaching component. Teacher candidates are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. The program requires 47 credits. Examples of coursework include creating and managing engaging learning environments, foundational literacy skills. and methods and strategies of teaching mathematics.

Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

The RN to BSN program is designed for registered nurses with an associate's degree or diploma in nursing who are looking to further their education. Courses are taught by practicing nurses and experts in their respective fields. GCU's BS in Nursing program is aligned to the Baccalaureate Essentials requirements determined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The BS degree requires 120 total program credits, of which 36 are program core credits. Examples of major courses include health assessment, applied statistics for health care professionals, and ethical decision-making in health care.

Student Life Data

According to 2014 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the university's undergraduate student population demographics break down as follows:





Over age 25


American Indian or Alaska Native




Black or African American




Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander




Two or more races




Source: National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator, accessed March 18, 2015

Broken down by type of degree:

Type of degree/certification






Fully online (undergraduate)


Some online (undergraduate)


In person (undergraduate)


Fully online (graduate)


Some online (graduate)


In person (graduate)


Source: National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator, accessed March 18, 2015



Grand Canyon University, March 17, 2015, http://www.gcu.edu/Home.php

"5 Top E-Schools, Grand Canyon University," Fortune Small Business, 2007, http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fsb/0708/gallery.bestcolleges_elearning.fsb/2.html

"Grand Canyon University," National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, March 18, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=Grand+Canyon+University&s=all&id=104717#enrolmt

Disclaimer: Information on this page was not provided or commissioned by the featured school. Information has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the featured school.

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