The country’s most valuable publicly-traded for-profit college has hatched a complex and unprecedented plan to become a nonprofit. Grand Canyon Education told investors this week that it was trying to pull off a scheme that would essentially split the company in two — one part a nonprofit college, Grand Canyon University, and the other half a for-profit service provider. … Grand Canyon’s move is a sign of the times for the for-profit college business, whose publicly traded companies have taken a beating amid a regulatory crackdown in recent years. Among the largest operators, one was taken private and the other was wiped out altogether. There are now just three listed for-profit college companies valued above $1 billion: Apollo Education, Grand Canyon, and DeVry. … So the company came up with a cheaper alternative: turning the university itself into a nonprofit, but leaving the businesses that recruit students and power the school’s online courses as part of a for-profit company. The new plan requires a much smaller loan, since much of Grand Canyon’s value, executives say, is tied up in the machinery that supports the school. If the newly-created nonprofit has to pay only for the value of Grand Canyon University, the price tag is much smaller. The for-profit company would work as a contractor for the university. In an ideal world, the company would soon sell its software and know-how to other universities as well. And Grand Canyon University would lose the black mark on its reputation — its for-profit status.