Walden University, a for-profit online institution of higher learning, is facing a class-action lawsuit that accuses the online school of misrepresenting the costs and time it takes students to earn an advanced degree mainly by intentionally dragging out the process of approving a capstone project, which is basically a dissertation, to the point where students are forced to re-enroll and pay more tuition.
And because Black women and people of color represent a significant portion of the university’s student body, Walden has been accused of what has been labeled “reverse redlining,” which is to say the school has allegedly been targeting marginalized communities with its predatory scholastic Tinder Swindler-like shenanigans.
“Walden lured in students with the promise of an affordable degree, then strung them along to increase profits,” Aaron Ament, the president of the National Student Legal Defense Network, said, according to The New York Times. “As if that’s not bad enough, Walden specifically targeted Black students and women for this predatory program, masking its discrimination as a focus on diversity.”
The National Student Legal Defense Network is representing the students along with the civil rights law firm Relman Colfax.
For those who still aren’t clear on what Walden is being accused of, the story of Aljanal Carroll, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, should shed some light.
The Times reported that Carroll, 49, started taking classes at Walden in the fall of 2017, “drawn by the promise that she could complete her doctoral degree in 18 months.” She handled all of her coursework like a champ and earned a 4.0 for her master’s degree, but when it came to the capstone project needed for her to complete her degree, the approval committee dragged its feet along with her wallet and un-reclaimable time, according to the suit.
The lawsuit states that the review committee would allegedly take weeks to give her feedback for her required project. Then that feedback would amount to petty grammatical and formatting suggestions, but those suggestions would still require her to revise her work and then wait more weeks for the next committee response. The suit claims it took another three years for her work to be approved and by that time, she had spent tens of thousands of dollars she shouldn’t have had to spend.
“It started to make me feel like I couldn’t write or speak, which didn’t make sense because I’d just earned a 4.0 for my master’s,” Carroll said. “I knew it didn’t seem right, but I was so far in it, I couldn’t turn back.”
Carroll’s story reportedly reflects that of countless students, many of whom are also plaintiffs in the class-action suit against Walden, which, by the way, has faced similar lawsuits in the past.
“The school reaped the financial gain from this scheme, stringing along students who were already deeply invested in their degree plan knowing they’d likely take the additional courses in hopes of finishing,” attorneys wrote in court filings, according to The Seattle Medium.
The attorneys also noted that in 2016, “41 percent of students across Walden’s doctoral programs identified as Black—more than seven times the national average of Black students enrolled in doctoral coursework,” and “In addition, nearly 77 percent identified as female.”
All people are trying to do is get their advanced degrees to better their professional lives. They shouldn’t have to jump through these hurdles because predatory institutions see the marginalized as mules to line their pockets at the expense of. This is gross.