Judge Rules for Former Walden University Students in Groundbreaking Decision


November 28, 2022

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Judge Rules for Former Walden University Students in Groundbreaking Decision

Court determines "reverse redlining" claims are actionable in college recruiting context

A federal judge today denied Walden University’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of former students by Student Defense and Relman Colfax PLCC. In today’s ruling, a 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.

Walden lured Black and female students into their Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program with false representations about program requirements before compelling them to complete more credit hours than originally advertised, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Having already invested significant time and money in the programs, the complaint alleges 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. Those fraudulent business practices cost students millions of dollars in overpaid tuition. 

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.”

“Walden lured Black students and women into their doctoral programs under the pretense of a social justice mission, then essentially held their degrees hostage for ransom. It’s a particularly egregious scheme, even by predatory college standards,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. “Today’s ruling is an unequivocal message that our clients’ claims have merit and deserve their day in court.”

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 plaintiffs are seeking a judgment against Walden that affirms the school violated consumer protection and Civil Rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, as well as damages and financial relief to compensate for the excessive tuition payments students were forced to make.

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