An April 17, 2011 Arizona Republic brings news of a tuition rate freeze enacted at Grand Canyon University (GCU), a private Christian career college. Administrators enacted this freeze in order to attract Arizona high school students who in light of recent tuition hikes and funding cuts at state institutions The University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University might be entertaining the idea of leaving their home state to matriculate at universities elsewhere in the country.
The Republic article reports that, though GCU charges substantially more than state schools -- anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 more -- its rate remains something less than the amounts students would pay were they to attend other state universities as non-residents or were they to attend many private institutions.
GCU suddenly finds itself truly a competitor in Arizona's postsecondary education market, in other words. The Republic article goes on to report that though GCU's parent company, Phoenix-based Grand Canyon Education, Inc., has made missteps in the past -- the most notable being a student recruitment scandal, which has since been resolved -- it finds itself on the proper footing to present a real alternative to big-State-U dominance in Arizona.
The Republic article goes on to quote Northern Arizona University economics professor Ron Gunderson, who also believes that GCU's time has arrived, especially as students must now absorb higher costs in order to attend state schools. According to Gunderson, these increased costs shrink the price difference between state and private institutions. This essentially re-jiggers the calculus of choosing an institution, as the additional cost to attend a private one appears increasingly merely nominal. GCU hopes that this shrinking difference in cost will begin to make higher-education aspirants believe that a private university learning experience is within reach.
As the Republic article so ably demonstrates, profound changes have come to higher education. Competition brings out the best in those competing, and if competition with GCU means that prospective college students in Arizona find high-value educational options before them as a result, so much the better for them