Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Complaints and Other Information Regarding Affiliated Institutions

Number: COMM.A.10.030

Scope. The Commission, aware of the value of information from the public, shall receive complaints against its affiliated institutions but pursue only those complaints that bear upon the institution’s meeting of the Criteria for Accreditation. Because the complaint process is intended to pursue only those matters that suggest substantive non-compliance by institutions, the Commission shall expect individuals who have a personal dispute with an institution to use other internal and external grievance mechanisms, particularly the internal grievance procedures of the institution, to resolve the dispute. In no case will the Commission use the complaint process to seek redress or to fashion an individual remedy with an institution on behalf of a complainant.

Contents, Presentations, and Processing. The Commission will consider no complaint that concerns facts or circumstances that took place more than five years from the date the complaint was received by the Commission. All complaints must be in writing and signed by the complainant although the Commission may at its discretion consider other complaints where warranted subject to the requirements in Other Information (below). The Commission will acknowledge a complaint promptly and within thirty working days of receipt will advise the complainant whether or not the complaint warrants consideration by the Commission. If the Commission determines a complaint warrants further consideration, the Commission will give the institution named in the complaint an opportunity of 30 days to respond to the complaint or to a summary of the complaint if the complainant requests confidentiality of identity or documents, before the Commission completes its review and makes a decision regarding the complaint. The Commission may require that the institution file a follow-up report or, upon approval by the Institutional Actions Council, may schedule a focused evaluation to the institution regarding issues raised by the complaint. In addition, the Commission President may schedule the institution for Special Monitoring. Such follow-up review may lead to sanction or withdrawal of accreditation following Commission policies and procedures related to such actions.

The Commission reserves the right to reject any complaint that contains defamatory statements.

When the Commission receives a complaint(s) about an institution that has an impending site visit and that raises questions about the compliance of the institution with Commission requirements, it will forward the complaint(s), or a summary thereof, to the attention of the chair of the on-site team for consideration instead of, or in addition to, the any regular review the Commission might undertake regarding a complaint. The team will notify the Commission staff of its findings, either in the team report or in a separate memo.

Other Information. In addition to pursuing complaints, the Commission may initiate an inquiry in response to any information that gives reason to be concerned about the institution’s meeting one or more of the Criteria for Accreditation.

Complaints Against the Commission. To be considered as a formal complaint against the Commission, a complaint must involve issues broader than concern about a specific institutional action or a specific on-site evaluation. The document must state clearly the nature of the complaint, and it must be signed. The President, on behalf of the Commission, shall respond to each complaint made against the Commission within 30 days; report regularly to the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees on the nature and disposition of complaints; and compile annually a list, available to the public on request that summarizes the complaints and their dispositions. Upon advice of counsel, the Commission retains the right to withhold public disclosure of information if potential legal action is involved in the complaint.


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Policy History

Last Revised: November 2012
First Adopted: August 1996, February 1996, June 2004
Revision History: February 1998, May 2002, October 2002, June 2008, February 2010, June 2012, November 2012
Notes: Policies combined in November 2012 – 13.1, 13.1(a), 13.1(b), 13.1(c), 13.2

Policy Number Key

Section COMM: Commission Policies

Chapter A: Commission Obligations to Institutions and the Public

Part 10: General


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