Walden will make significant programmatic changes and disclosures, and pay $28.5 million if the agreement is approved by the court | 03.29.2024

Relman Colfax and the National Student Legal Defense Network announced a $28.5 million proposed settlement in their case against Walden University, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of former Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) students who claim they were defrauded by Walden’s violation of consumer protection and Civil Rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. In addition, Walden will make new disclosures on median time to completion and median costs on its website. Walden has also eliminated the University Research Reviewer (URR) Role on Dissertation Committees and agreed that it will maintain the programmatic change for at least 4 years.

The lawsuit alleged that Walden lured Black and female students into their DBA program with false representations about program requirements before compelling them to complete more credit hours than originally advertised. Plaintiffs brought these claims in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Having already invested significant time and money, the complaint alleged that students had little choice but to continue on in the program and pay for the excess credits, lest they be stuck with massive debt but no degree. Plaintiffs claimed that DBA students were forced to pay more than $28 million dollars in tuition and fees to complete these excess credits.

“This historic $28.5 million proposed settlement marks not just meaningful relief for the nearly 2,300 students who are encompassed by Plaintiffs’ claims of race- and gender-based targeting, but also a crucial step towards preventing future discrimination in higher education. By holding Walden accountable, Relman Colfax affirms our commitment to safeguarding the rights of all students,” said Lila Miller, Attorney at Relman Colfax.

“Plaintiffs alleged that Walden masked deception as diversity by targeting their DBA degrees at Black and female students who were hoping to advance their careers,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. “The harm Walden caused goes beyond broken promises and we hope that the reforms agreed to as part of this settlement will protect students—not just at Walden but around the country—for years to come.”

Plaintiffs alleged that Walden targeted and disproportionately hurt Black and female students with their predatory practices. In 2016, 41% of students across Walden’s doctoral programs identified as Black — more than seven times the national average of Black students enrolled in doctoral coursework. Nearly 77% identified as female.

The four Named Plaintiffs showcased remarkable courage and tenacity in speaking out and seeking justice on behalf of themselves and other students. Their voices, united in this landmark case, have echoed a resounding call for accountability and fairness in education and have paved the way for a more equitable future.

“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," said Named Plaintiff Tiffany Fair.

Walden sought to have the suit dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Julie Rubin denied the motion in full. The ECOA claim can go forward, she explained, because “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.”

In that ruling, the court expressly allowed “reverse redlining” claims under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be considered on the merits in a higher education case.

The Relman Colfax litigation team includes Glenn Schlactus, Tara Ramchandani, Lila Miller, Alexa Milton, and Ted Olds with paralegal support from Don Scales, Kelis Johnson, and Miriam Farah. Relman Colfax is assisted by co-counsel at the National Student Legal Defense Network.

Jump to Page