HLC’s goal is to permit a fair and timely investigation of complaints against HLC-accredited institutions or active HLC applicants concerning non-compliance with HLC standards and policies. HLC’s accreditation standards and policies can be found in the HLC Accreditation Handbook.
Complaints concerning HLC Evaluators, the Commissioners, or Staff should be sent in writing to:
The HLC expects complainants and institutions to demonstrate genuine effort in resolving disputes directly using the institution’s internal grievance procedures. Where issues or educational services, student services, or tuition are concerned, a student complainant must have exhausted all efforts to resolve his/her complaint with the institution before filing a complaint with HLC. The complainant must demonstrate that he/she has taken the appropriate procedures to resolve the complaint with the institution (which may include claim numbers, grievance files and emails) prior to filing a claim with HLC.
Where issues of educational quality or compliance with HLC standards or policies are not central to the complaint, HLC will refer the complainant to the appropriate federal or state agency or private entity with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint.
HLC will not intervene on behalf of individuals in cases of a personnel action, nor will it review an institution’s internal administrative decisions in such matters as admissions decisions, academic honesty, assignment of grades and similar matters unless the context of an allegation suggests a violation of HLC standards or policies or if the context of an allegation suggests that unethical or unprofessional conduct or action may have occurred that might call into question the institution’s compliance with a HLC standard or policy.
Further, HLC will not intervene on behalf of individuals in cases where the situation giving rise to the complaint had occurred so long ago that investigating and ascertaining the facts might prove to be problematic. The Executive Director will exercise professional judgment in determining which cases meet these criteria.
Any complaints not submitted using the Online Complaint Form must be in writing. Written complaints must be legible and include a release from the complainant authorizing the Commission to forward a copy of the complaint – including identification of the complainant – to the institution before it will be processed.
All complaints must include the complainant’s name and contact information. Where circumstances warrant, the complainant may remain anonymous to the institution, however all identifying information must be given to HLC.
In cases where written anonymous complaints are received, HLC will consider how to proceed and whether the anonymous complaint sets forth reasonable and credible information that an institution may be in violation of the Commission’s standards.
HLC Complaint Procedure
1. After receipt of the complaint, HLC staff will send a letter or e-mail to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the complaint.
2. HLC staff will conduct an initial review of the complaint to determine whether the complaint sets forth information or allegations that reasonably suggest that an institution may not be in compliance with HLC’s standards, policies, and procedures. If additional information or clarification is required, the Executive Director (acting on behalf of the Commission) will send a request to the complainant. If the requested information is not received within 15 days, the complaint may be considered abandoned and may not be investigated by HLC.
3. If the Executive Director determines after the initial review of the complaint that the information or allegations do not reasonably demonstrate that an institution is out of compliance with HLC standards, policies, or procedures, the complaint may be considered closed and not investigated by HLC.
4. If the Executive Director determines after the initial review of the complaint that the information or allegations reasonably suggest that an institution may not be in compliance with HLC standards, policies and procedures, the Executive Director will notify the institution that a complaint has been filed. The notice will summarize the allegations, identify the HLC standards, policies, or procedures that were allegedly violated, and provide a copy of the original complaint to the institution.
The institution will be given 30 days to provide a response, except for:
1. In cases of advertising violations, Commission staff forwards a copy of the advertisement to the institution, citing the standard that may have been violated. The institution is required a response within 15 days.
2. If a news article or media broadcast carries a negative report on a HLC accredited institution, the institution is required to respond to the statement(s) within 15 days.
3. In cases when the complaints are from students concerning administrative services, student services, educational services, or tuition, the institution will be required to respond directly to the student within 15 days to address his/her concerns.
5. The Executive Director will review the complaint and the institution’s response for compliance with the accrediting standards, policies, and procedures.
6. If the Executive Director concludes that the allegations do not establish there has been a violation of standards, policies, or procedure, he/she will consider the complaint closed, and no further action is required.
7. If the Executive Director concludes that the allegations may establish a violation of HLC standards, policies and/or procedures, he/she may take several actions. See the HLC Accreditation Handbook for more information.