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Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University (GCU) made history when it made a $230 million public offering on the stock market last November. GCU, the first regionally accredited nonprofit college in American history to become a for-profit company, was the most successful IPO in 2008.

Since 2004, when GCU's board of directors sold the near-bankrupt school to Christian investors, its student body has grown by 10,000, mostly through online enrollment. For the nine months ending September 30, 2008, GCU reported 4.2 percent net income on revenue of $109.6 million, compared with .8 percent net income on $68.5 million in revenue for the year-earlier period.

Some Christian colleges under financial strain have explored following suit. Facing a $4 million budget shortfall for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Crichton College in East Memphis announced in February that it had entered a Definitive Asset Purchase Agreement with Significant Psychology, LLC. Its founder, education entrepreneur Michael K. Clifford, also GCU's vice chairman, will invest in the nondenominational evangelical school to expand its offerings to adult learners, mostly online.

"Lowering tuition to help provide easier access to a quality, values based education…is a critical component of our objective with Crichton,"Clifford stated in February. "We're happy to get the word out that a regionally accredited 68-year-old Christian college…is now more affordable in these tough economic times."

"Market-driven colleges [for-profits] are growing because they know how to market online learning and deliver learning in ways that the research shows are effective," says Robert C. Andringa, president emeritus of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. "While they do ...

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