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Grand Canyon University made good on its promise Thursday to fight the Education Department’s decision to levy a record $37.7 million against the huge private Christian institution based in Phoenix.

The university told the department it was appealing the decision and requested an in-person hearing with the agency’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. If that appeal doesn’t work in the university’s favor, Grand Canyon president Brian Mueller said he’s prepared to file a federal lawsuit and to take its fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We have no desire to do any of this,” Mueller said at a press conference Thursday. “… But there is a group of people in Washington, D.C. who have their intentions to harm us.”

The Education Department said that Grand Canyon—one of the largest private Christian institutions in the country, with nearly 120,000 in-person and online students—misled more than 7,500 students about the cost of doctoral degree programs and violated federal law. The university told prospective and current doctoral students for years that their degree program would cost between $40,000 and $49,000, but that estimate didn’t account for extra courses that could be needed to complete the program, according to the department’s findings.

Mueller disputed the department’s findings, saying the university provided the necessary disclosures to students about the cost. “For the department to look at GCU’s numerous disclosures, including the [Degree Program Calculator], and determine that merits any fine at all—let alone the highest fine it has ever levied—speaks volumes about their motivations and the coordinated efforts being taken against GCU,” Mueller said.

Grand Canyon has been locked in a years-long battle with the Education Department over its bid to become a nonprofit, which the department rejected. The department said it had concerns that the university hadn’t sufficiently separated from its for-profit owner, Grand Canyon Education, which provides marketing, recruitment and support services to the institution. (Mueller also is the CEO of Grand Canyon Education.)

Paying the fine would be a “financial hardship” for Grand Canyon, Mueller said, and could lead to tuition increases. “We’re not going to pay the fine because the truth is just the opposite of what they are saying,” Mueller said. “We are the single most transparent university in the country in terms of helping students understand what the time to complete and the cost to complete a degree is.”

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