Disappointed With Walden University

I’ve often sung Walden’s praises here on this blog, so it wouldn’t be right not to speak out when I am disappointed by the University. In short, though I have tried to remain patient (in action and in mind), I have been extremely frustrated with how long it has taken (and thus how expensive it has been) to gain approval to begin my dissertation study. I understand that many of these steps are necessary and that I would have had at least as frustrating an experience at a traditional university (if not more so), but it seems that in a few specific cases I could have experienced better service – and that in general there must be a better way, especially for a new generation of universities like Walden.

Here is a brief rundown of the timeline behind the approval of my study:

September 15 – This was the second week of the quarter. I completed a major rewrite of my proposal. This was the last week I completed significant work on my dissertation. I waited patiently two weeks for the committee to read the new version and nearly another two weeks until the Oral Conference was scheduled on October 10th.

October 13 – I completed a few minor revisions (which took only a few hours) following approval from the Committee during the oral conference. My advisor sent this version of the proposal to the Research Office on October 15th. Unfortunately the file he sent was infected with a virus (from his computer, not mine) and was thus not received. I waited patiently presuming I needed to wait two weeks to hear back. Sadly, the error was not discovered until I followed up and heard back from my advisor on October 29.

October 30 – The virus issue was finally resolved between my advisor and the Research Office. I was notified that the materials were due back from the reviewer on or before 11/12. My appeal for an expedited review due to the virus issue was denied because “other proposals were received before mine.”

November 14 – After following up with them myself on the 12th (following another two weeks of waiting patiently), I finally receive feedback from the research office… two days late. Contact your advisor is all they say. My advisor is out of the office for the week. I get a response back from him anyway, but without the reviewers’ comments. Luckily, the next day I convince the research office to forward me the comments. I finish the requested revisions (which contradicted recommendations from my committee) that night and returned the proposal to my advisor (again, this only took a few hours). The following day (now the 16th) my advisor informed me he’d look it over and pass it back to the Research Office… on Monday (the 19th). Though the reviewer promised a speedy response with the resubmission, I am not optimistic about getting it back before the Thanksgiving break. :(

November 17th – Today. The quarter ends on November 25. I don’t expect to have approval by then. It’s been exactly TEN WEEKS since I completed the major rewrite of my proposal. Of this, about six weeks of waiting would’ve been understandable. Two weeks were lost to the virus issue and another one due to this week’s difficulty getting the reviewer’s responses from the Research Office. Since September 15th I’ve worked all of 8 hours on my paper – and I’ve paid full tuition.

Waiting on the university is always painful, but the unnecessary delays make it worse, especially since I am racing the clock to finish my study before my first baby is due in February. My study is only eight weeks long, but with the holidays at this point I am not even optimistic about being able to complete my write up to get my final dissertation submitted (and started jumping through hoops) by March 1st, the deadline to graduate May 25th! If I miss March 1st, I won’t be graduating until August, which means another quarter of tuition. This is made all the more painful by the fact that I’ve now reached the lifetime limit of student loans from the federal government and am now paying for each quarter, which is a serious impact on my finances. Note that Walden stopped offering a reduced dissertation rate to students who are ABD just before I completed the last of my other requirements – so we now pay full price. :(

I always heard that the waiting was the worst part of Walden University, but I never understood that. My instructors and my advisor had always been responsive. Now I see, though, that dealing with the larger institution is the issue.

Also, Walden did away with the 4th “blind” reviewer on the dissertation committee about the time I started. This apparently cut down on the amount of miscommunication, conflicting advice/requirements, and general bad feelings associated with the dissertation process. Dissertation proposals, of course, still required review by the IRB for ethical reasons, but I noticed that this review by the Research Office is now called an “Academic Review” and more or less amounts to the 4th “blind” reviewer. The intent of the review (at least in part) is to ensure academic rigor throughout the organization regardless of the committee or committee chair. I think it is counter productive, though, (and not the intent of the review) for students to receive conflicting advice from the committee and the Research Office. The committee chair is in place for this very reason – to resolve conflicts between committee members who disagree, however the chair has very limited power to resolve a conflict with the research office.

Ultimately, there is no ONE BIG ISSUE for me to address here, but clearly this system does not serve the student well. I should not spend 10 weeks of a 12 week quarter waiting on the University bureaucracy while I pay full tuition. When I was taking classes I could understand how I was drawing on university resources. However, I have been a VERY minimal drain on university resources over the past two years of independent researching, writing KAMs, and preparing my dissertation. It is disappointing and frustrating that when I do need university employees to work for me the system performs so poorly.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this… Walden students, Ph.D. students in other schools, prospective students, people who sympathize, and people who think I’m acting entitled. It’s why I’m sharing. ;)

UPDATE 04/23/08: It turns out I didn’t actually want to bring people out of the woodwork who have had troubles with Walden. I know the issues you’ll read about in the comments below can happen at any University. Also, though this was a frustrating time for me, I know I might have been as frustrated or more in a traditional Ph.D. program. Since that time my committee has been heroic in their efforts to push my submissions through the system – and just last night I had my dissertation approved with minor edits following my oral defense. If I can complete all the form and style revisions quickly enough I expect to graduate next month and to walk this summer. I’m thrilled. And I say again unequivocally that Walden was an excellent learning experience for me over five years, despite this one quarter of frustration. I know other individual’s experiences may very, but I can whole heartedly recommend the school and the Educational Technology Ph.D. program. In keeping with good blogging ethics, though, I won’t be removing this post or the comments below. I’ll let this update set the story straight.

UPDATE 04/29/09: It’s been over a year since I wrote anything on this post, and it’s still attracting comments from people having their own negative experiences at Walden. While I’m sure these things happen at Walden as they do at any school, I’m no longer interested in this post, or my blog, being a magnet for them and I’m no longer interested in reading them. I consider the frustrations I had to deal with a challenging part of the process, and as I’ve said many times now, I fully expect they would’ve been worse (and more expensive) at a traditional institution. My frustration was at least in part due to my desire to hold Walden to a higher standard. And as I’ve said many times here and elsewhere, my doctoral experience at Walden was of a rigorous academic program – heavy on research and writing – and lead by amazing faculty from all over the world. Like any school I’ve attended, I know the individuals are more important than the institution and I understand that this therefor might not reflect everyone’s experience. I tend to believe the best a student can do is take responsibility for that, deal the best they can with professors and staff they’re having trouble with, and then do their best to control who they choose to work with more closely – it does no good to point the finger elsewhere. So for the record, I think I was acting entitled when I wrote this, and I’m not proud to have hung this dirty laundry out in public. But I’ll stick to the blogger’s ethic of not deleting a post. As a compromise, this will now be the first post on which I’ve turned off comments. Please email me if you think I can help with your problem… but if you want to vent publicly about your own frustrations, please do so elsewhere – maybe on your own blog. I just hope you don’t wind up regretting it too. ;)

17 Responses to “Disappointed With Walden University”

  1. Jason Says:

    Mark,

    Sorry to hear of your disappointing experience thus far with Walden. I’m a Capella PhD student and this weekend am working on finishing my chapter 5 draft to have to my mentor by the end of the weekend.

    While I have experienced the “jumping through hoops” experience, I’ve not had the major setbacks that you’re reported. Capella has a 2-week turnaround time for manuscripts submitted to dissertation mentors and committee members. Therefore, as I shoot towards finishing my dissertation, I’ve got to be mindful of the the end of quarter deadlines along with the turnaround times as I work to receive final approval.

    I’m fortunate that Capella does offer a modest tuition discount for learners who reach the dissertation stage of their program. (By modest, Capella didn’t raise the tuition rates for the dissertation students when recently raising PhD tuition recently).

    Hang in there Mark…finish strong! Despite the frustration, you’re close to the finish line.

    Jason Rhode
    http://www.jasonrhode.com/blog/dissdigest
    http://www.idolresources.com

  2. Ryan Bretag Says:

    Hi Mark:

    I, too, have sung the praises of Walden University as you know. However, I found my latest experience at a residency beyond disappointing and felt the need to let that be heard, too. When reading what you’ve been through of late, it is easy to see why you are frustrated and it is quite justified.

    It will be very interesting to hear if others face similar situations both within Walden and in other universities. Regardless, I hope Walden is listening.

    Hang in there!

  3. Dave Says:

    It wasn’t nearly as big or bad as your situation, but when I did undergrad research (somewhere else), it took months just to get approval to conduct the study (literally, asking someone to watch a 10 second computer animation and write down what they saw). I have a passion for forms and formality, but it’s ridiculous when Bureaucracy is so slow to accomplish such minor tasks.

    I did learn a lot about perception in the process – I did Locks of Love that semester, and I was treated lower than dirt at the campus’s research office (which was off-campus!) until I cut my hair short again.

  4. Caroline O'Bannon Says:

    Mark,

    I’m sorry to hear about the issues you’ve been experiencing, but I do thank you for being so frank about your experience with Walden University. I’m hoping to (one day) begin working on my doctorate, and I’ll keep your tribulations in mind as I look at my options.

    I have to agree with Jason though. keep your head up! Once it’s over you’ll look back on all this as a bump on the road. Besides, that new baby of yours will keep you far too occupied to dwell on the bad times.

    Good luck!

    Caroline

  5. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Walden University Exploits Students for $ Says:

    [...] Note: For more details on much time I’ve spent waiting for approval, see my post from the 17th. [...]

  6. Rose Ann Morris Says:

    Mark,

    I too paid one month of tuition at Walden when my first class started “off track” and I had to sit and wait for classes to start again the next quarter. They were saying that I could start on my first KAM, but I did not have enough direction to do that and my mentor was no help at all! He knew I was interested in online instruction of mathematics and he told me which theorists to read based on that! I could not believe it. He did not know enough about me. Thanks to our wonderful department chair, whom I met at my first residency, I have a good idea what I plan to do. Now, it really is all my fault, too busy to get going. I will finish two classes this weekend (that date of the 25th that you mentioned) and have 100% in each. Often asked to do a lot more than teach in my small school district, even with my excellent self-discipline, I have too much to do and the KAM is not happening yet.

    I am glad to have a heads up from you about all of this. I have a schedule I would really like to keep. I know now to keep pushing them as much as I can about it all.

    I am paying my tuition out of pocket as I go. I managed to get my BA, BCLAD, clear and single subject credential all free (scholarships and college employment). I paid for my MA semester by semester, and I am doing the same at Walden. I really do not want to drag this out! I gave up all but two aspects of my life outside of work just to focus on, and pay for, Walden. I am fortunate that I do not have to work at all, we own both homes etc., and my husband pays all the bills. I work, and educate myself, because I chose to, and because I feel I have something to contribute. I believe high school freshman are my gift!

    I hope you receive some encouraging news soon. Keep doing what you need to do, you will succeed!

  7. Dave Kootman Says:

    Mark,
    I understand your frustration and it seems like you did your best to be objective in your post and pretty much state what happened as you saw it.
    I think one of the greatest things to come from this situation though is that of the voice of the consumer.
    Just as companies are learning to fear blogs and message boards, so should educational institutions. When people do research on schools to attend, they may see this and inquire further. As a community, we have a great voice to share our feedback in blogs and such media. Way to be heard!!!

  8. Susan Elms Says:

    Mark,
    I am having so much trouble with Walden that I decided to look up blogs to see if I am the exception or the rule. My committee chair had me spend my ENTIRE first writing semester rewriting my prospectus. Then she didn’t look at my chapter one for over a year. Everytime I get something back from her, she wants something different. Its almost like it s a different person I’m sending it to! Then, this week, she resigned. No one seems to know why, but I am at the end of my 4th writing semester, and the program design was 2, and as yet do not even have a proposal completed. Getting my chairman to answer emails was like pulling teeth. I would email her everyday, saying, did you get my work? They have a 10 business day turn around, so they don’t acknowledge emails until they start on your stuff.
    Good luck to us both!

  9. Karen Sweeney Says:

    I am considering the special education program at Walden. I am concerned about the level of work entailed, as I have a family and will be working. I have already sacrificed much family life after completing 2 degrees. I have read blogs that indicate their program is extremely rigourous and time exhaustive, and is NOT for those with a family. I would only take 1 class per semester, but am concerned about the time devotion. Also, I have never taken an online program, and don’t know the details as to its rigors, and expectations on a typical weekly basis. I have also concerns about the cost, as I have read that some were paying cash without having the aid processed on time. Please respond ASAP, and also, if anyone knows of any web blogs particularly about their teacher programs, please tell me the sites. Even with advanced search, I am having programs finding blogs that related specifically about their education degree programs.

  10. L. Burroughs Says:

    Susan sounds like you have my advisor who informed me on the 13th that she can not help me any more after looking at only 7 pages since Aug, 2007. Of course it is Walden. I have requested for another advisor. I was warned about Walden in their doctorate program but I did not listen. All my friends went to Capella, Nova or Argosy. I may give this program 6 more months of my time but after that I can not afford it. I am a single mom with a college student and my funds are tight. I bet we had the same advisor. I have been jerked around so much that I may write the President of the school to complain.

    I can not complain with giving a compliment also. I received my masters from Walden and I enjoyed that.

  11. K. Roosa Says:

    I am just starting on my Ph.D. in Community College Leadership. I just finished the Foundation course, which was very helpful. However, when it came time to be assigned a mentor, I received a mentor who has NO experience with community colleges. When I wrote to the program director regarding this error, he told me that I did not need a mentor who was specifically in CCL. He also implied that there was a shortage of CCL people to mentor. I entered this program specifically to work with experts in community college issues! So I contacted a faculty member whose background would make her an excellent mentor, but she says the decision is the coorinator’s! Now he is on vacation and his Dean is unwilling to make the change for me in the Director’s absence. Meanwhile, I am getting behind. This does not give me a good feeling about my work with Walden. After researching programs for a couple of years and finally choosing a program I felt was responsive to my needs, I may end up withdrawing. I’m disheartened, but perhaps there will be a good ending. I will post again when I know the outcome.

  12. Rachel Says:

    I have had sooo much trouble with this school, that I did not know if there are any petitions to sign for a class lawsuit.

    In short I have not been able to graduate from the Master’s Public Health.
    I have been dealing with the Vice President who is a lawyer, which I did not know. I have been told that I had to participate in conference calls, if I wanted to talk to anyone. I have waited 2 years to find an internship in my area. I have not been successful, so now they are trying t transfer me into a program which is no longer being offered.
    I have been trying to work with them. They have threaten to discontinue contact with me, if I keep calling the CEPH or ASPH and complaining about them or asking any questions pertaining to accrediation issues. I was told by the school when I enrolled that they were CEPH acredited, and that was a lie.
    It has been terrible. I owe soo much, yet I have to fight to have something to show for it. They pulled their accreditation from CEPH, and did not tell me. When I confronted them on their withdrawl from the agency, it was then that the Vice President told me that he could no longer talk with me alone. Conference calls with 4 other members of the board, and accreditation committee began.
    I hope that things get better for all of you. I am glad to know that I am not the only one struggling with this school.
    Hang in there, because there is always a rainbow on the otherside.

  13. Chris Brown Says:

    I just graduated from Walden with a Master’s in Educational Leadership. I did not realize until I was finished that Walden in not an approved Administrator Preparation program in ANY state except for a special program they arranged with Texas. I liked the education Walden provided but it was wasted money if I can’t get an administrator certificate in my state.

  14. Frustrated with Walden Says:

    I would never recommend Walden. I am a student in the Education Specialist program at Walden University. I thought I was making progress and doing well. But when I began my final class, problems begin to plague me. I have no idea if or when I will finish. They added a new clause which lets future students know you could be in the program indefinitely:

    Neither the provisions of this guide, nor the acceptance of students to the University through the admission, enrollment, and registration processes, constitutes a contract or an offer of a contract. The College of Education reserves the right to change any provision, offering, requirement, or fee at any time within the student’s enrollment period. Regular updates are made to this guide; students are encouraged to routinely check the Ed.D. Web page for new or supplemental information. Students should contact their academic advisors, faculty advisors/mentors, or instructors for clarification of specific academic program requirements.

    The instructors and faculty have been known to be unethical and rude if you point out their mistakes. Their tone can be unprofessional as they urge you to stop complaining and get back to the process. However, you will come to many stops because what is satisfactory for one member of your committee may have to be changed to satisfy another. You are caught is a cycle and won’t finish until they say so despite the quality of your work. I think Walden is trying to improve their reputation as a “paper mill” but the work is not rigorous or hard, it is getting someone to agree that you have met the requirements of the rubric that is difficult. If you are considering an online university and Walden is your choice right now, I would not recommend it for the above reasons. I am an anonymous reviewer because Walden has punished some students by making them redo completed requirements that they already passed as a punishment for what they see as complaining and being resistent to the process. It is the worst educational experience I have ever had. Say no to Walden.

  15. Also frustrated with Walden! Says:

    I am dealing with a Doctoral program that has been the worst experience of my LIFE! Not because of the difficulty of the work; I expected that to an extent. I have had to petition the University for a new Dissertation Chair 3 TIMES! My first Chair left the University. My second took A MONTH to reply (literally, one reply took her 5 weeks). I’m on my third and to be honest, I feel as though I could quit now more than ever! I haven’t quit yet because this process has been so EXPENSIVE! When will Walden take responsibility for their mistakes; when will they acknowledge that students are human and not the monetary value of a tuition bill?!?! I have three degrees (all from brick and mortar institutions) and I’ve never experienced such disregard for students!

  16. Mark Wagner, Ph.D. Says:

    This post seems to be gathering more attention again lately, so I thought I’d drop in to say that it was not my intention to create a forum for airing frustrations with the University. The update to the post (in italics at the end, above) is very important. I don’t think my frustrations would’ve been any different at a traditional university (by many accounts it’s often worse), and I don’t think it would’ve been any better at another “online” university (by many accounts it would’ve certainly been worse at most other schools attempting what Walden attempts). I was indeed frustrated at times (which is probably as it should be), and particularly frustrated during the quarter I wrote this. But some doctoral students are stuck with horrible advisors in a horrible system. This wasn’t the case for me. I had great people working with me and for me every step of the way, and at no point did it detract from the academic rigor of the program or what I was learning. It was just frustrating and expensive, which are two things I think you can associate with any Ph.D. experience. :)

    I still whole heartedly recommend the Walden program, particularly for someone who will be proactive about meeting faculty and recruiting a committee they want to work with at the dissertation stage. Walden’s Ph.D. program on Educational Technology keeps getting better, and it’s firmly grounded in a research and writing heavy experience for the student. :)

    -Mark

  17. Frustrated MSN Student Says:

    I stumbled upon this blog as I was looking for a list of instructors to avoid at Walden.I was prompted to do this as I have just had a very bad experience with an instructor who I think may have mental issues. I was surprised to see so many frustrated students just on this one blog! How many others are out there? I dared to complain and file a petition about a rude and abusive instructor in a nursing research class. She called me on my cell phone to confront and harass me! Ever since, she has given me poor grades and rude comments on my papers. I complained to my advisor and the Associate Dean and no response to date. If this treatment continues, I will switch to a different college. I want to remain anonymous because I fear more retaliation. I have also noticed that the school of nursing is not as well put together as the school of education is. My husband is in the Master’s program in the school of Education and it seems much more professional. Beware of Walden!