Grand Canyon University’s online enrollment tops 86,000 students, reversing declines

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Dive Brief: 

  • Grand Canyon Education, an educational services company, reported this week that its largest client, Grand Canyon University, saw online enrollment tick up after experiencing heavy declines throughout last year. 
  • The university’s online enrollment grew to 86,065 students by the end of March, up 1.6% from the same time last year. Total enrollment at Grand Canyon University, a private Christian institution in Arizona, increased 2.5% year over year to 108,633, partly due to strong growth in on-campus students. 
  • Grand Canyon University’s enrollment growth helped boost GCE’s bottom line, which saw revenue increase to $250.1 million in fiscal 2023’s first quarter, up 2.5% compared to the same period last year. Grand Canyon University gives around 60% of its tuition and fee revenue to GCE in return for services like marketing and counseling. 

Dive Insight: 

Brian Mueller, who serves as both the CEO of GCE and the president of Grand Canyon University, attributed the enrollment increase to several recent initiatives. They include rolling out new academic programs, as well as working with companies in the healthcare, financial services and technology sectors to train their employees. 

New online enrollment growth is expected to continue in the second quarter, Mueller said during a call with analysts Tuesday. GCE also projected that it would bring in up to $965.1 million in revenue in fiscal 2023, which would be a significant increase over the $911.3 million in revenue the year before. 

Mueller echoed comments he made earlier in the year defending GCE’s business model. The company heavily relies on tuition-share agreements, which guarantee that it will earn a portion of its clients’ revenue in return for providing a variety of educational services, including marketing and recruitment. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced earlier this year that it is reviewing 2011 guidance allowing companies like GCE to strike revenue share agreements with colleges for recruitment and other services. Lawmakers have increasingly raised concerns that these deals push companies to aggressively recruit students to boost their bottom lines. 

“Critics point to the revenue-share model as bad for universities,” Mueller said on Tuesday’s call. “The past two years have proven them wrong, and we expect in the next year, this will become even more apparent.” 

Mueller argued that GCE takes on most of the financial risk for its clients, especially during inflationary periods or when demand for higher education declines. 

“Our expertise, technologies and processes have allowed our university partners to continue to benefit during these challenging times,” Mueller said.

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