March 28, 2024

Walden U Will Pay $28.5 Million to Settle Claims It Deceived Black and Female Students

Walden U Will Pay .5 Million to Settle Claims It Deceived Black and Female Students

For-profit Walden University has agreed to pay $28.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the school used false advertising aimed at Black and female students. Walden also agreed to make significant changes in its programs and disclosures to students.

The settlement had been flagged in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last October by Walden’s parent company, Adtalem Global Education (formerly called DeVry Education), reporting that at a September mediation session “the parties agreed on a $28.5 million payment to resolve the issues in the case, subject to agreement on non-financial terms, discussions about which are ongoing.”

The settlement amount, $28.5 million, was the total that the lawsuit alleged Walden, an online school, had overcharged students.

The settlement was announced today by lawyers representing the students from the non-profit law firm Student Defense and from Relman Colfax PLLC.

The students were enrolled in Walden’s Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program. Their lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, claimed Walden recruited Black and female students into the DBA program with false statements about program requirements before forcing them to complete more credit hours than advertised.

They alleged that Walden’s conduct violated both consumer protection and civil rights laws.

In 2016, 41 percent of all Walden doctoral students identified as Black — more than seven times the national average of Black students in doctoral programs. Almost 77 percent identified as female.

Under the settlement, Walden will terminate, for at least four years, a structure that tended to extend enrollment periods for DBA students, forcing them to pay Walden more money before they obtained their degrees.  Walden agreed to make new disclosures on the time it takes to complete programs, and program costs.

A press statement from the lawyers quotes former Walden student and plaintiff Tiffany Fair. She says, “For me, this resolution means more than just restitution; it’s about reclaiming my voice and my dreams. This settlement signifies some closure to a years-long journey of standing up against injustices, as well as a new beginning, where education empowers rather than exploits.”

In November 2022, U.S. District Judge Julie Rubin rejected Walden’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. She wrote, “Defendants, Plaintiff allege, got rich on this scheme–as Plaintiffs were compelled to incur mounds of additional and unanticipated loan debt in order to get to the program finish line while Defendants got paid by the course credit.”

Walden was sold by one big for-profit college operation, Laureate, to another, Adtalem, in 2021. Walden and Adtalem have come under scrutiny, including by law enforcement agencies and investment operations, for predatory practices.