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Suing the Biden Administration to Compel Transparency

Goldwater Institute V. U.S. Department of Education

Case Status

Date Filed

February 13, 2024

Last Step

Filed complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

Next Step

Await opposition’s response.

Case Overview

In October 2023, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) assessed a record fine of $37 million against Grand Canyon University (GCU) – the nation’s largest private, Christian college. The fine is the largest of its kind ever assessed by the federal government. By comparison, the Department assessed a $2.4 million fine against Penn State for failing to report the crimes of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky, and a $4.5 million fine against Michigan State, when that school refused to address sexual assaults committed by its athletic director, Larry Nassar.

The Department claims that GCU violated federal disclosure rules regarding continuing education courses for PhD students; allegations that GCU categorically denies.

The Department also announced its unprecedented fine with a widely-reported press release that was heavy on rhetoric and bereft of any serious complaints from students or the public. It also appears that the fine was assessed in conjunction with suspicious coordination among various federal agencies.

After this unprecedented fine was announced, the Goldwater Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department. The request seeks emails between key individuals of the Department and other federal agencies that discuss the Department’s fine against GCU. The records may help inform the public about this extraordinary fine, as well as coordination between various federal agencies in what appears to be the intentionally targeting of a successful university based on extraordinarily thin allegations. However, the Department has refused to produce the records requested and has failed to otherwise comply with the FOIA.

FOIA was enacted to hold government accountable to the governed and keep government transparent. Under FOIA, a federal agency must respond to the requester within 20 business days and include information about whether it will comply with the records request. But, here, the Department has failed to issue a response informing the Institute of whether it will comply with the public records request. Indeed, the Department has not even responded with a proposed date of when it will make that determination. Instead of being transparent, federal bureaucrats are keeping the public in the dark.

The Goldwater Instituted filed a lawsuit against the Department to compel compliance with the FOIA and to require production of the requested documents.

Case Logistics

The case is Goldwater Institute v. U.S. Department of Education. The complaint was filed on February 13, 2024, in the United States District Court, District of Arizona.

Case Documents

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