Posted 6:51 PM 7/30/2013 : GCU bypasses Tucson for new campus, critics blame city leaders
TUCSON - Grand Canyon University announced the location of their newest campus and it does not include Southern Arizona.
The for-profit private Christian school unveiled its plans to create a new campus in Mesa. GCU recently weighed options to build in Tucson; however, community protest quickly stalled those plans.
GCU previously explored proposals to build a new campus at the site of the cash-strapped city-owned El Rio Golf Course. The project would have brought thousands of students and an infusion of cash. Supporters of the project contest that city leaders folded under pressure.
"It's a classic example of where we continually shoot ourselves in our foot and it's getting tougher and tougher," said Joe Higgins, a small business owner who is especially upset at the missed opportunity.
Higgins said that a Tucson campus could have boosted local businesses and helped the local economy.
"We've really got to get back to basics and start saying 'yes' instead of 'no'," Higgins said.
GCU Board of Directors member Sara Dial explained the move in a letter to the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, or TREO: ""All indicators tell us that the Greater Tucson area is a wonderful place for a GCU campus and we remain committed to evaluating this option in the future. For now, we would like to put our site selection process on hold while we finalize the details for our East Valley campus."
However, Higgins blames city leadership for how they handed the negotiations, and for GCU bypassing Tucson and Southern Arizona.
"I think it's just a void of leadership... a void of where we want to be when we grow up," Higgins told News 4 Tucson.
Councilwoman Regina Romero initially supported the GCU talks but when she faced protest from community groups over the location, she reversed her decision.
"I don't believe in finger-pointing," Romero told News 4 Tucson, adding that it's important to continue talks with GCU and learn from past mistakes.
"[GCU] choosing Mesa is good for Arizona, it's an additional educational opportunity for Arizona kids and it's important for our future," Romero said.
Although Romero said she looks forward to opening up talks with GCU again in the future, she could not point to any specific ways the talks might be different.
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