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Goldwater Institute sues federal Education Department over GCU investigation, fine

The Goldwater Institute said Wednesday it’s suing the US Department of Education under the Freedom of Information Act. The records sought relate to the department’s investigation and nearly $38 million fine of Grand Canyon University last year.

GCU is appealing the fine and denies misleading students about the cost of graduate programs.

The Goldwater Institute wants to see emails about the GCU case between top education officials, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission and others. Staff attorney Stacy Skankey says something seems wrong with the huge fine levied against GCU.

“So we will see exactly what we’re able to uncover. If there is anything egregious there. If this proves that they are targeting GCU," Skankey said.

The Education Department did not comment, citing pending litigation.

Separately, the FTC is suing GCU, which says it's also under audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Skankey said the open-records request pending with the Education Department is crafted to avoid having the records withheld under a federal exemption.

“So kind of that cross-communication between agencies over just the Higher Education Act seems like it's going to be a big fight for them to have to show some kind of a privilege there.”

Skankey said the Goldwater Institute is acting independent of GCU and in favor of transparency and government accountability.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.