After winning free campus, Grand Canyon University says’no thanks’

Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the … Continued

Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.

Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.

“We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield,” Mueller said. “Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area.”

The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.

The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient.

The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.

But GCU got little local cooperation, Mueller said. Not only would the town not help cover $30 million in sewer and road upgrades, but it also reportedly called on GCU to conduct an environmental impact study at the university’s expense.

“We were ending up having to cover the burden of all of that,” Mueller said. “It started to get overwhelming.”

As the Greens prepare to reopen the gifting process, the prospect of local opposition looms. Some residents protested earlier this year when Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University emerged as a top contender.

“One thing that is anathema to any quick resolution is if there is another outcry locally in Northfield when the selection process begins anew,” said an e-mail from Jerry Pattengale, a college administrator who’s overseeing the gifting process for the Greens, who own the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain.

“While most communities nationwide are offering amazing abatements and have teams that roll out the red carpets for new businesses … many in Northfield basically shut doors or tried to.”

Formerly owned by Northfield Mount Hermon School, the 43-building campus carries symbolic importance for evangelicals since it was established in 1879 by famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Several Christian organizations remain interested in the campus, Pattengale said. Selecting a new recipient is expected to take at least a year.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

More on:
  • TM96

    Both as an NMH alum and as a professor at a public university, I’m glad to see the town resist this kind of nonsense. No one has a duty to subsidize these scams.

  • NFMH fan

    Not sure what you think is a SCAM. As a professor, I would think you might want to educate yourself on GCU. Obviously, you are in academia and have no business discussing business.

  • DavidJ9

    How much property tax would GCU have been paying?

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.