Student Complaint Procedures

S-16

Student Complaint Procedures

Section 1
Summary of Program Integrity Rules
The United States Department of Education Regulation 34 CFR 600.9, the “Program Integrity Rule,” as part of its state authorization provisions, requires states to provide a process for students to file complaints relating to programs offered by postsecondary educational institutions authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The specific types of complaints covered by these regulations are:
•Allegations of state consumer protection violations, including, but not limited to fraud and false advertising
•Allegations that state laws or rules addressing the licensure of postsecondary institutions have been violated
•Allegations regarding the quality of education or other accreditation requirements

In compliance with the federal program integrity rule, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and Community College of Rhode Island have listed the following alternatives for individuals who wish to submit complaints regarding URI, RIC, and CCRI, as well as the other institutions that are under the jurisdiction of the CPE. It is expected that any student complaint will be filed in accordance with any procedures currently in place at the student’s institution before resolution is sought from the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC) or the institution’s accreditation body. In the absence of a specific procedure, the complaint should be filed with the institution’s president.

Recommended content of the complaint
Initial complaints should include the complainant’s full name, address, and contact information, including e-mail address and telephone number. Complaints should specify enrollment status- whether the student is a current, former or prospective student; and they should be specific in describing the nature of the complaint and relevant information: the name of the parties involved, including witnesses, dates, the name of the institution, the policy or procedure violated (if known), and contact information. Any supporting material that substantiates the complaint should also be included.

Student complaints regarding RIC or CCRI

For complaints alleging consumer fraud
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd., Suite 200
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly. In addition, students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police.

For complaints regarding state licensing of postsecondary institutions
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd., Suite 200
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly.

For complaints relating to quality of education or accreditation requirements
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd.
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly.

Complaints involving quality or accreditation requirements may also be filed directly with:

New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
301 Edgewater Place, Suite 210
Wakefield, MA 01880
781-541-5413
https://www.neche.org/comments-complaints/

In addition, complaints involving programs at the institutions that are accredited by a specific accrediting entity may be filed with that accrediting entity.

University of Rhode Island’s accreditation documents may be viewed at: http://www.uri.edu/assessment/accred.html.
accreditation documents may be viewed at: http://www.ric.edu/aboutric/accreditation.php.

Community College of Rhode Island’s accreditation documents may be viewed at: http://www.ccri.edu/acadaffairs/accreditation.html.

For other types of student complaints involving URI, RIC or CCRI, pursuant to RIGL §16-59-4(3), the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education may not intervene in the internal procedures of the university and colleges under its supervision (URI, RIC, and CCRI). As such, the Council’s review of such student complaints will be limited to a determination that the institution’s internal complaint procedures have been utilized and followed, and that the institution has complied with its own applicable policies. Such review by the Council on Postsecondary Education will be summary in nature, and it will not involve the submission of any information or documentation that was not submitted at the institution level. Any student that has not yet used or completed the complaint processes available to him/her at their institution will be referred back to their institution. The Council, however, through its Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, does respond to complaints regarding allegations that raise significant questions about these institutions’ compliance with the Board’s policies and procedures, as well as compliance with Rhode Island and federal law.

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly. In addition, students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police. Complaints involving allegations of discrimination will be referred to the institution’s affirmative action office and/or Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (or the applicable federal EEOC office).

Before submitting a complaint, the student is encouraged to try to address and reconcile his/her complaint by meeting with the appropriate official(s) at their institution, or by initiating a review through his/her school’s internal dispute resolution/complaint process and/or academic grievance procedure.

Student Complaints Regarding Degree-Granting Institutions and Proprietary Schools Operating in Rhode Island

Complaints regarding Brown University, RI School of Design, Providence College, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, and New England Institute of Technology
The Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education does not supervise Brown University, RI School of Design, Providence College, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, or New England Institute of Technology. As such, any complaints regarding these specific institutions should be filed with those schools.

Complaints regarding degree-granting institutions authorized to operate in Rhode Island by CPEthe Council on Postsecondary Education
Complaints regarding degree-granting institutions authorized to operate in Rhode Island by the Council on Postsecondary Education are addressed in the same manner as student complaints regarding proprietary schools, and as described below.

Complaints regarding proprietary schools operating in Rhode Island
Student complaints regarding non-degree-granting proprietary schools are handled by the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner.

For complaints alleging consumer fraud:
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd., Suite 200
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly. In addition, students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police.

For complaints regarding state licensing of postsecondary institutions:
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd.
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly. Complaints regarding programs that are also subject to approval by any other state agency will also be referred the applicable state agency (the RI Department of Health, for example).

For complaints relating to quality of education or accreditation requirements contact:
Commissioner of Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd.
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100

Written complaints and supporting documentation should be filed with the commissioner of postsecondary education at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and they will be reviewed accordingly. The Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner will attempt to resolve the matter with the school and student; however, if it is unable to do so, the student will be referred to the school’s accrediting agency.

All students and/or third-party individuals who file the above and other types of complaints with the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner will be initially directed to follow the school’s internal complaint procedure. If that procedure fails to resolve the complaint, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner will then refer the student and/or third-party individuals with complaints related to federal or state laws or regulations to the appropriate federal or state agency. In addition, students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal and/or illegal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police. Complaints involving allegations of discrimination will be referred to the institution’s affirmative action office and/or Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (or the applicable federal EEOC office).

Student complaints regarding degree-granting higher education institutions approved by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC) to provide online courses and programs as part of the Rhode Island State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (RI-SARA)

Rhode Island has been accepted as part of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) through the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE).

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, D.C., and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA and administered by four regional education compacts, with the NEBHE being the regional entity for Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC) are the Rhode Island portal agencies for NC-SARA and have the authority and responsibility to resolve student and other complaints about Rhode Island’s SARA-approved institutions.

Complaint Resolution
Absent applicable law or policy establishing another remedy, the first step in resolving student or other complaints or grievances is to attempt to resolve the matter directly with the administration of the involved institution under established institution complaint or grievance procedures. Every Rhode Island institution (non-profit private, for-profit, and public) is required to establish, publish, and enforce policies related to redress of complaints and grievances as part of their RI-SARA approved distance learning programs. With limited exceptions, any Rhode Island in-state or out-of-state student or other person who contacts the OPC regarding complaints about RI-SARA institutions will be referred to the specific RI-SARA college or university official(s) responsible for resolving those matters.

In the event that the institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of a RI-SARA complaint, OPC is responsible for final resolution of any such complaints originating at any RI-SARA participant institution, public or private.

Conversely, if a Rhode Island resident attends a distance education program at a NC-SARA institution in another state, s/he will need to begin the grievance process at that institution. In the event that institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of the complaint, the NC-SARA portal agency of that state is responsible for final resolution of the complaint in accordance with their state student complaint procedures and regulations.

With the exception of reporting fraud, waste, or abuse, the OPC does not review anonymous complaints or matters that are or have been in litigation, and does not conduct a judicial investigation or evidentiary hearing. The OPC may conduct a paper review, discuss the matter with the parties, and take other steps as may be appropriate in an attempt to resolve the complaint.

NC-SARA policies and standards, including those for consumer protection and the resolution of complaints, apply to interstate distance education offered by participating NC-SARA institutions to students in other NC-SARA states. Complaints about a RI-SARA institution’s operations are to be resolved under the RI-SARA provisions.

In addition to dealing with alleged fraudulent activity, the OPC has consumer protection authority among RI-SARA institutions and authorizes OPC to investigate and resolve complaints that an RI-SARA institution is operating a course or program contrary to practices set forth in the interregional guidelines for the evaluation of distance education when a program or course of study operates in such a way that a student is harmed. Examples of issues that may arise in regard to alleged fraudulent activity or more general complaints include, but are not limited to:

a. Veracity of recruitment and marketing materials
b. Accuracy of job placement data
c. Accuracy of information about tuition, fees, and financial aid
d. Complete and accurate admission requirements for courses and programs
e. Accuracy of information about the institution’s accreditation and/or any programmatic/specialized accreditation held by the institution’s programs
f. Accuracy of information about whether course work meets any relevant professional licensing requirements or the requirements of specialized accrediting bodies
g. Accuracy of information about whether the institution’s course work will transfer to other institutions
h. Operation of distance education programs consistent with practices expected by institutional accreditors (and, if applicable, programmatic/specialized accreditors) and/or the interregional guidelines for the evaluation of distance education

Complaint Resolution Processes
a. Complaints against an institution operating under RI-SARA are first processed through the institution’s own procedures for resolution of grievances. Institutions operating under RI-SARA are required to make their and RI-SARA’s complaint resolution policies and procedures readily available to students taking courses under the institution’s RI-SARA provisions.
b. Complaints regarding student grades, examination results, and/or student conduct violations are governed entirely by the institution’s policy and are therefore not subject to resolution through RI-SARA procedures
c. If a person bringing a complaint is not satisfied with the outcome of the institutional process for handling complaints, the complaint (except for complaints about grades or student conduct violations) may be appealed, within two years of the incident about which the complaint is made, to the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC). The resolution of the complaint by the OPC, through its RI-SARA complaint resolution process, will be final.

For submission of a complaint relating to a Rhode Island-based institution participating in the RI-SARA, please contact:
Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Blvd., Suite 200
Warwick, RI 02886-1304
401-736-1100
www.riopc.edu

After receiving a complaint through our complaint form, the OPC will review the submitted materials and contact the submitter for any required additional information or clarifications. The OPC will then send a copy of the complaint to the RI-SARA institution against which the complaint has been filed and ask for a response within three weeks.

After receiving the college or university’s response, the OPC will determine whether the institution’s student complaint process has been followed and exhausted and what additional steps or follow-up may be taken. The OPC will inform both parties involved in the complaint.

Students or other individuals with complaints involving an allegation of criminal activity will be referred to their campus police department, their local police department, or the Rhode Island State Police.

If you have additional questions about the complaint process, or want to clarify that your individual complaint is reviewable by the OPC, please feel free to contact the main office at (401) 736-1100 or online at www.riopc.edu.

Details

Category
Students
Policy Number
S-16
Adopted
5/7/2012 (BG)
Amended
12/2/15 (CPE)