On January 7, 2021, Relman Colfax and co-counsel the National Student Legal Defense Network filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Walden University (“Walden”), a for-profit university that offers only online degree programs, including 20 distinct doctoral programs. This lawsuit, brought under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) and several state law consumer protection claims, alleges that Walden engaged in “reverse redlining” by intentionally targeting Black and female students for what it falsely represented to be cost- and time-effective online degree programs, but that actually amount to an expensive predatory scheme.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of Aljanal Carroll, Claudia Provost Charles, and Tiffany Fair, for themselves and a class of similarly situated students who Walden trapped in its Doctor of Business Administration (“DBA”) Program. They seek declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees.
The complaint alleges that Walden engaged in discriminatory and deceptive practices by deliberately hiding the true cost of its DBA program. While advertising a doctoral degree with a specific number of required “capstone” credits, it lured students to the DBA program with the false promise of a swift graduate degree. As alleged in the complaint, Walden inflates the cost of the DBA program by arbitrarily requiring students to complete additional capstone credits. Walden uses this ploy to delay degree completion, thereby increasing DBA students’ tuition costs by tens of thousands of dollars. Plaintiffs allege that Walden not only offers a fundamentally predatory product, but also engages in “reverse redlining” by intentionally marketing this product to Black and “nontraditional” students who may be older or work full-time (and who are disproportionately Black and female), in violation of federal civil rights and fair lending statutes.
The Relman Colfax litigation team includes Tara Ramchandani, Glenn Schlactus, Alexa Milton, Ted Olds, and Lila Miller, with paralegal support from Joëlle Simeu Juegouo, Alicia Menendez-Brennan, and Charlotte Saltzman. Relman Colfax is assisted by co-counsel at the National Student Legal Defense Network.