The Sweetwater Union High School District voted in 2011 to move forward on a university-related project. Superintendent Ed Brand told the Reader in a December 2011 interview that the district was surveying the residents to determine public support and “the threshold of the tax burden” the public is willing to bear. Brand said he called the college “Sweetwater U.”
It appears Sweetwater U has arrived on the district website, which sports a picture of eager students listening to a professor. Underneath the picture it reads: “Earn College Credit at Sweetwater U through Grand Canyon University.”
The site says a student has to be “at least 15 years of age” and “may be considered with a 2.5-3.0 with a counselor recommendation.” Tuition is $52.50 per credit and the E-Book is $75.
In November 2012, the Reader reported that Sweetwater Union High School District was considering offering college-credit courses through Grand Canyon University. At the time of the article, district spokesperson Manny Rubio told the Reader the district was considering several institutions, including Grand Canyon and Devry University.
The Sweetwater district posted information on enrollment sessions (beginning January 2) with Grand Canyon University, a Christian university. The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to all of the school board members and copied the Reader on December 17, 2012. The foundation objected to the proposed agreement with Grand Canyon University.
The foundation’s letter cites examples of Grand Canyon’s educational philosophy: “…we integrate our Christian worldview into everything we do…. Our hope is to intentionally provide opportunities for you to explore who Jesus is, grow in a relationship with Him, and ultimately become a co-laborer.”
The letter of objection written by the foundation’s staff attorney, Andrew Seidel, discusses case law. Seidel suggests that “It is inappropriate for Sweetwater Union High School District to align itself with this Christian school. Offering classes that intentionally incorporate a Christian worldview, espouse the enclosed doctrinal statement, and create an opportunity for the Christian university to proselytize public school students is unconstitutional.”
In a January 17 interview, Seidel said, “This partnership has to cease…. We’re not averse to filing a lawsuit, but that would be costly for everybody…. We hope that this can be resolved amicably, and in the best interest of all concerned.”
Seidel also talked about the ways a Christian university was exclusionary for people of different faiths or nonbelievers. The foundation is currently involved in 13 suits and is about to file another one.