Grand Canyon University will confer 26,096 degrees for its traditional-aged and working adult students in the 2019-20 academic year, the largest graduating class in its 71-year history.

The accomplishments are something not even a global virus could stop.

“Dealing with the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic is not how our graduating seniors on campus nor our working adult students online envisioned their college careers finishing up,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “But they met those challenges with true Lopes spirit and persevered. This has truly been a historic year and they should feel extremely proud of their accomplishments.”

GCU, a leader in online education with more than 85,000 students studying remotely, was well prepared for the challenges that COVID-19 presented.

“The transition was seamless for our 20,000-plus on-campus students,” Mueller said. “Because we have invested over $200 million into a learning management system that serves both ground and online students, our students on campus were already familiar with that infrastructure. We were able to maintain the same continuity of instruction and learning, the same educational outcomes, the same small class sizes and the same curriculum within the same learning management system that students had already grown accustomed to utilizing in their on-campus classes.

“With more than 175 academic programs already offered fully online and the ability to transition other ground courses, we’re well equipped to ensure our students can stay on track to complete their degrees in a safe environment no matter how long it takes to get through this pandemic.”

The 2019-20 academic year was filled with notable achievements:

• GCU was awarded its first grant since it reverted to its nonprofit status in July of 2018. The $3.2 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation has helped develop an accelerated pastoral training program that allows students to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Divinity in five years.

• GCU continued its efforts to make higher education accessible and affordable by announcing that it would freeze tuition on its ground campus for the 12th consecutive year.

• The Colangelo College of Business hosted the first ever Colangelo Servant Leadership Awards. Named after Jerry Colangelo, the awards honored four Phoenix-area leaders who display servant leadership principles within their companies.

• The university was designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. This designation is awarded to universities and colleges that actively try to reduce vulnerability in our National Information Infrastructure through higher education.

• GCU opened Canyon Ventures Center, a student-centric innovation and business acceleration center. The center offers space rent-free to companies in exchange for hiring GCU students.

• The Student Advising Services Building is the latest in the $1.5 billion construction boom on campus. The five-story building in the heart of campus now houses the Antelope Reception Center, Student Services (where existing students go to meet with their Student Services counselors) and Admissions.

• GCU’s on-campus housing, rated sixth-best among 1,378 colleges in the country by, added three more six-story, apartment-style residence halls as enrollment on the Phoenix campus surpassed 22,000. Of that total, about 13,000 students live on campus.

• The university continued its heavy investments into the surrounding inner-city neighborhood, including a $1.6 million eight-year partnership with the Phoenix Police Department to reduce crime; the largest Habitat for Humanity partnership in the country in which $2.9 million has been raised and 25,000 volunteer hours contributed to renovations at more than 290 homes in the community; and a groundbreaking K-12 partnership that provides free tutoring and mentoring to students at neighboring schools as well as more than 300 full-tuition scholarships to low-income students who sought that academic assistance and are now paying it forward as college students by mentoring the next generation of K-12 students behind them. These projects have paid off in the form of significant declines in crime, increases in home values and a K-12 system that has the full weight of a university supporting it.