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Walden University is the subject of a class-action lawsuit over allegedly implementing “multi-part discriminatory” practices and fraudulent representation of course lengths that especially victimized Black and female students. 

Walden is a private, online, for-profit higher education institution headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota that offers 70 degree programs.

The lawsuit, filed in Maryland’s federal court by the National Student Legal Defense Network in January, represents several former students who claim Walden’s misconduct trapped minority students in particular into cycles of “debt and despair,” The New York Times reports. 

It argues Walden purposefully lengthened the time students took to complete their capstones in the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program by making them wait for approval from a three-member committee. 

Being described in the lawsuit as a “multi-part discriminatory, fraudulent, deceptive, and dishonest scheme” enacted by the university, students claim they had to re-enroll for semesters and continue paying tuition during the approval process. 

Because the number of capstone credits actually required to obtain their degrees was misrepresented, and Walden allegedly lured students in under the “false promise that they could swiftly earn a graduate degree,” the lawsuit says the school overcharged students over $28.5 million.

“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 in a statement. “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 students claim the university has violated consumer protection laws, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and misrepresented the “cost and credits” needed to earn their degree, according to the NYTimes

The lawsuit accuses Walden of “reverse redlining,” which targets “minority communities with its advertising and tailoring it to appeal to women,” the outlet further detailed.

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Notably, Walden promotes itself as an institution that champions diversity. The website claims the university is ranked number one among 380 accredited institutions for awarding doctorates to African American students” and also the top-ranked “for awarding graduate degrees in multiple disciplines to African American students.”

A Walden spokeswoman responded to questions about the lawsuit by stating the university would “continue to work to ensure that those groups of people that have been typically underrepresented in higher education know that attaining an education and expanding their access to opportunities is possible at Walden University.”

If you’re interested, read more via the NYTimes.

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