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Walden University is an online for-profit university headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It offers Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Health, Education Specialist, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Business Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
Walden is part of a global network of universities managed by Laureate Education Inc.
Walden was established in 1970 by two New York teachers, Bernie and Rita Turner, who created a program for working adults/teachers to pursue doctoral degrees. In the summer of 1971, the first classes took place in Naples, Florida, focusing primarily on school administrators. The initial classes allowed students to form dissertation topics with their faculty partners before returning to work at their respective schools while completing their dissertations. In 1972, Walden conferred its first degrees: 46 PhDs and 24 EdDs at its first commencement in Naples.
In 1979, the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Board licensed Walden to grant PhDs and EdDs in the state, and in 1982 the school moved its headquarters to Minneapolis. In 1990, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredited the University.
Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc., purchased 41 percent of Walden University in 2001, gaining a controlling interest in 2002. In 2004, Sylvan Learning Systems became Laureate Education, Inc. Former US President Bill Clinton was an Honorary Chancellor of Laureate International Universities from 2010 to 2015. President Clinton was the keynote speaker at Walden University's commencement on July 30, 2011. Jonathan Kaplan served as CEO from 2007 to 2018. Mr. Kaplan previously served three years as an economic policy adviser to President Clinton.
In 2013, Laureate Education Inc. and GSV Capital, IFC, Learn Capital and Yuri Milner provided $43M in funding to Coursera to expand online education. In 2015, Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and director of the Yale University Center for the Study of Globalization, succeeded President Clinton as Laureate Education's Presidential Counselor.
In 2016, Looney and Yannelis (Brookings Institution) reported that Walden University student loan debt was the second-highest in the US, with 120,275 students owing 9.833 billion dollars. While the 5-year student default rate was low (7 percent), the percentage of balance repaid on the loans was 0 percent.
According to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Walden University graduated the largest number of African American doctoral students from 2011 to 2015. From 2013 to 2017, the number of doctorates "awarded to Blacks" from Walden University was 969, more than two and a half times the number conferred by Howard University, which awarded 344 doctorates during the same period. Walden University awards the most doctorates to African Americans among 377 accredited U.S. institutions, according to the National Science Foundation's 2018 survey. Walden is the top granter of healthcare administration master's degrees, Master of Science in Nursing degrees, and public health doctoral degrees in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database.
In September 2020, Adtalem Global Education began the process of purchasing Walden University. In November, the Higher Learning Commission placed Walden under its governmental investigation designation. In January 2021, two activist investors of Adtalem, said "they were 'severely disappointed' with the board's decision to purchase Walden, calling the college a "substantially inferior asset."
Dr. Ward Ulmer serves as president of Walden University. Dr. Ulmer was previously senior vice provost for Strayer University. Paula Singer serves as the Chair of the Board of Walden University.
Walden University receives more than 75% of its funds from the US government, including more than $750 million a year for graduate student loans, the largest amount for any US college. Walden University has been under heightened cash monitoring from the US Department of Education since 2016.
On April 8, 2016, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE) notified Walden University that its renewal application to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) was rejected because Walden University did not have an institutional federal financial composite score computed by the US Department of Education (DOE). In the absence of an institution-level financial composite score calculated by DOE, MOHE viewed Walden's parent company Laureate's financial composite score, calculated based on its global operations, which does not exceed 1.5.