Grand Canyon University will celebrate the largest graduating class in its history during commencement ceremonies this month, including a traditional ground campus class that is 29% first-generation college students.
Approximately 30,000 GCU students completed their degrees during the 2021-22 academic year, bringing the total number of graduates to more than 132,000 in the past five years. The achievements of those students will be celebrated during commencement ceremonies at GCU Arena on April 21-22 for traditional students and April 25-28 for online students.
The graduating class includes those who completed their degrees in Summer 2021, Fall 2021 and projected graduates from Spring 2022.
“Our graduates are sought after in industries throughout Arizona and the entire world,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “What they learn in the classroom combined with the sense of purpose they cultivate through servant leadership in a Christian worldview context makes them well-prepared to become future leaders in our communities.
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“What also has me really excited about this graduating class is that 29% of our traditional ground campus graduates identify as first-generation college students. That is a truly transformational number. Those graduates will change the financial trajectory of their families for generations to come.”
GCU puts an emphasis on ensuring that private Christian education is affordable to all socioeconomic classes – freezing tuition on the ground campus for 14 straight years – while also putting in place support systems to ensure those students succeed academically, spiritually and emotionally.
“Studies show that as tuition levels increase, diversity decreases,” Mueller said. “By keeping tuition affordable, that creates equality of opportunity and results in a very diverse and high-quality student body.”
The 2021-22 academic year was also historic in that it was again buzzing with activity on the GCU campus after returning to pre-pandemic levels of participation in everything from Chapel services, intramurals, clubs, community outreach efforts, NCAA athletics, fitness centers and outdoor recreation trips.
The 2021-22 academic year at GCU was filled with many other notable achievements:
• Enrollment on the Phoenix campus reached 23,500 students, with another nearly 90,000 students studying online.
• In its first year of operation, GCU’s CityServe initiative distributed more than $1 million worth of household goods to families in need from its warehouse located on campus. The Christian campus is the only university in the country to serve as a CityServe hub, supplying beds, furniture, heaters, fans and other excess goods from major retailers such as Costco, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s to the surrounding community.
• The university continued its partnership with Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, reaching 400 homes renovated in the largest such initiative in the country. More than $4.6 million has been raised and 29,000 volunteer hours have been served by students, faculty and staff since the project began in 2014.
• GCU continued its efforts to educate disadvantaged populations, awarding 100 more full-tuition Students Inspiring Students scholarships to high-achieving, low-income high school seniors – bringing the total scholarships awarded to 645 since 2016. In addition, GCU launched the L.O.P.E.S. Academy at the Cardon Center for students with mild to moderate developmental disabilities; announced the Fostering Futures Scholarships, a partnership with the Arizona Department of Child Safety that will cover the full cost of tuition, room and board for foster youth; and served senior adults with academic offerings catered to their needs with its Golden Lopes program.
• GCU’s on-campus housing, rated sixth among 1,392 colleges in the country by niche.com, started construction on two more six-story, apartment-style residence halls that will open in August 2022. The university is expecting its largest incoming class ever in 2022-23.
• GCU’s Honors College expanded to 2,800 students with incoming GPAs of greater than 4.1. Honors also embraced Dr. Breanna Naegeli as its new dean, joining Dr. Meredith Critchfield in the College of Education and Dr. Craig Detweiler in the College of Arts and Media as new deans in 2021-22.
• The university held a series of seven makeup commencements during the fall for online students whose in-person ceremonies were delayed during the COVID pandemic. Approximately 7,000 students from across the world took advantage of the opportunity to walk across the stage at GCU Arena, celebrating their accomplishments in front of family and friends after achieving their academic goals during one of the most difficult times in our history.