The Commission on Colleges recognizes the value of information provided by students, employees, and others in determining whether an institution's performance is consistent with the Commission's criteria for obtaining or maintaining accreditation. The Commission's interest also is in ensuring that member institutions maintain appropriate grievance procedures and standards of procedural fairness and that the procedures are applied appropriately and consistently. The procedures for the review of complaints involving member institutions enable the Commission to address possible violations of its Principles of Accreditation, the Core Requirements, and policies or procedures, as well as to address possible violations of an institution's own policies and procedures, if related to the Principles.
Because the Commission's complaint procedures are for the purpose of addressing any significant noncompliance with the Commission's standards, policies, or procedures, the procedures are not intended to be used to involve the Commission in disputes between individuals and members institutions, or cause the Commission to interpose itself as a reviewing authority in individual matters of admission, grades, granting or transferability of credits, application of academic policies, fees or other financial matters, disciplinary matters or other contractual rights and obligations. Nor does the Commission seek redress on an individual's behalf. Under no circumstances does the Commission respond to, or take action on, any complaint or any allegation that contains defamatory statements. Further, the Commission will not serve as a grievance panel when the outcome of institutional grievance or appeal processes is unsatisfactory to the complainant.
The Commission expects individuals to attempt to resolve the issue through all means available to the complainant, including following the institution's own published grievance procedures, before submitting a complaint to the Commission. Therefore, the Commission's usual practice is not to consider a complaint that is currently in administrative proceedings, including institutional proceedings, or in litigation. However, if there is substantial, credible evidence that indicates systemic problems with an accredited institution, the Commission may, at its discretion, choose to proceed with the review.
In order to be considered, formal complaints must be submitted in writing, using the Commission's "Complaint Against Institutions: Information Sheet and Form," signed, and sent to the attention of the Executive Director of the Commission on Colleges by the complainant(s). The Commission will not entertain complaints that are not in writing or which are anonymous, nor will it consider complaints sent electronically. In addition, the Commission will not act on complaints submitted on behalf of another individual or complaints forwarded to the Commission.
Responsibilities of Institutions
The Principles of Accreditation states: "The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints." (Comprehensive Standard 4.5)
In addition, each institution is required to have in place student grievance and public complaint policies and procedures that are reasonable, fairly administered, and well-publicized. The Commission also requires, in accord with Federal regulations, that each institution maintains a record of complaints received by the institution. This record is made available to the Commission upon request.
Procedures for Filing a Complaint Against an Institution
An individual may make an inquiry regarding complaint procedures or about issues and concerns that could be considered complaints; however, the Commission's response and its obligations to meet the specific timetables outlined in these procedures will begin only after the complainant submits a formal complaint.
A formal complaint is one that is (1) submitted in writing, using the Commission's "Complaint Against Institutions: Information Sheet and Form," (2) signed, and (3) sent to the attention of the executive Director of the Commission on Colleges by the complainant(s). The "Information Sheet and Form" includes all of the following:
Once the formal written complaint is submitted, the Commission and the complainant are responsible for the following:
Complaints Against the Commission on Colleges
If an individual complainant alleges that the Commission on Colleges did not follow the complaint procedures outlined above, that individual should submit a written complaint to the Chair of the Commission on Colleges. The Chair will review the complaint with the Executive Director and, if the complaint cannot be resolved, may forward it to the next session of the Executive Council for review and action.
Commission on Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097