Is Walden University withholding diplomas from black female students? One former doctoral candidate says “Give me my degree”
By Tiana Allen
Walden University, a private profit college that offers classes primarily online, was hit with a class action lawsuit in January filed in Federal Court by The National Student Legal Defense Network, an organization that is representing past students who claim Walden violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and participated in “reverse redlining” by targeting students of color. According to the complaint as listed on the Student Defense’s website, http://defendstudents.org “Walden targeted Black and female students with false advertisements, required students to complete and pay for substantial additional credit hours.” The claim further mentions that “Walden targeted and disproportionately hurt Black and female students with their malicious practices. In 2016, 41% of students across Walden’s doctoral programs identified as Black, more than several times the average of Black students enrolled in doctoral coursework. Nearly 77% identified as female.”
A spokesperson at Walden University, responded to this claim by stating “The lawsuit in question – which largely focuses on claims from many years ago – is without merit, and we have asked the court to dismiss it.”
Apparently, Walden had been in hot water for utilizing this very tactic on other students before. One former student, Latroya Bishop, (who is not being represented by The National Student Defense Network), lends her voice in hopes to share her story. “Walden University directly impacted me financially, emotionally and professionally and I just want my degree.” She states.
In the Spring of 2010, Latroya Bishop was a doctoral student in the Department of Education at Walden University. She had high hopes of becoming “Dr. Latroya Bishop, ED. D” with a Doctor of Education in Higher Education and Adult Learning. Bishop shares that she chose Walden because the commercial adds promised to offer working adults the “flexibility” to attend school online, and virtual learning was right up her alley. At the time, Bishop says, her daughter just started kindergarten and the thought of obtaining a doctorate degree in only 24 months might afford her the chance she’d always wanted to enhance her career. “My dream,” Bishop adds, “is to become a university professor. I’d want to teach classes that support all the research I’ve done on Race Relations.”
As Latroya dug into her doctoral program in hopes to fulfill her dreams, before she knew it, it had been over 2 years and she started to see many red flags. Bishop had already completed her residency and passed all her classes, but for some reason, when it came to her capstone dissertation or “prospectus,” she kept continuously being held back by committee chairs. “None of my research was being approved, and I wasn’t exactly sure why. No one gave me any clear reasoning, so I kept changing my entire frame of research (least 3x) in order to try to appease them.” Bishop adds.
Unfortunately, changing her research, as Bishop puts it “did not work.” Bishop mentioned that she contacted the head of the department of Education at Walden, but she kept getting the run around. It was now 2019 and Latroya Bishop still had not received her doctoral degree. Eventually, she filed a grievance at the school.
Where it all began
According to Bishop, the problem started when she first brought her research to the committee chairs at the department of education between 2013-14. “There weren’t any black committee chairs” She mentioned, “and all my research was specific to race and racism. One paper I wrote (titled Adult Learner Activists Perception of Administrators Responses to Incidents Involving Race on Campus), was looking at how students on college campuses had disparaging feelings about the way administrators responded to incidents about racism at their school.” Bishop states that she feels this research might have struck a nerve with some of the white committee chairs at Walden.
Unfortunately, in 2021, Bishop states that her academic advisor resorted to asking her to gain a lesser degree which would have been an ED. S or “Education Specialist.” Bishop felt this was an extremely low recommendation, especially coming from her academic advisor. “I want a doctoral degree, the degree I paid and worked so hard for. It is now 12 years later, I’m over $100,000 in student loan debt, thousands of dollars out of pocket, and no degree. It is clearly racism and predatory lending.”
Bishop adds that she is exhausted by the entire situation as it caused her many sleepless nights. “I’m emotionally traumatized and seeing a therapist to help me sort out this mental distress. My child was in kindergarten when I started my degree, now she is about to begin her freshman year at Grambling State University. This predatory lending to African American women is a huge phenomenon at for profit institutions and Walden is one of them.”
A call for Reconciliation
Bishop wants to resolve this issue with Walden with a fair agreement. “I would like for Walden University to apologize, not just with words but by giving me the degree that I rightfully earned.” Bishop also shares that she wants Walden University to accept accountability for their predatory lending practices and to clear out her student loan debt. Moreover, Bishop concludes, “I would like to see all for profit schools closed.”
To date, Latroya Bishop has not heard from nor received her doctoral degree from Walden University, however she is an educational expert that shares her now published research on race relations. Some of this research she conducted while a student. Additionally, she started the nonprofit organization Parental Empowerment Institute, where she was awarded a $30,000 grant to do research on the school to prison pipeline. The focus, Bishop notes “is on the organization structure of the educational system and how it impacts the prison system in Georgia. I’m actually researching schools now.” Bishop laughed at the irony.