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Report Complaints: Higher Learning Commission

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Submit a Complaint to HLC About an Institution

Students, faculty, staff and members of the public may submit a complaint after verifying that an institution is an HLC-accredited or candidate institution.

Complaint Process

The complaint process is designed to identify substantive problems with an institution’s ability to meet the Criteria for Accreditation or other HLC requirements. HLC’s policy on complaints provides a full description of the type of complaints that HLC will review.

The HLC complaint process is designed to allow stakeholders and members of the public to provide information that can indicate potential concerns regarding an HLC institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation or other HLC requirements. As an institutional accreditor, HLC is one part of a larger system involved in overseeing higher education. Thus, the HLC complaint process is not designed to intervene in individual matters, but rather to review matters that pertain to the institution as a whole to the extent that such matters relate to HLC-specific requirements.

The HLC complaint process:

  • Is deliberative and judgment-based.
  • Is designed to operate in a prompt, fair and equitable manner.
  • Recognizes the value of information provided by stakeholders and the public.
  • Helps institutions gain awareness of systemic problems and improve.
  • Directs complainants to appropriate processes for grievances if the matter is not a substantive accreditation concern.

A complaint regarding an HLC-affiliated institution must be submitted using the form below. HLC does not accept complaints via mail, email or phone. HLC’s process for reviewing and responding to a complaint generally consists of the following steps:

  1. HLC will initially review the complaint within 30 days of its receipt. The complainant will be notified upon conclusion of this initial review. This notification will provide information on any next steps, if applicable.
  2. If HLC determines a complaint warrants further consideration, the complaint, including related documentation as applicable, will be forwarded to the institution for review and response.
  3. The institution will generally have 30 days to respond to the complaint in writing.
  4. HLC will review the information provided by the institution within 30 days of its receipt and make a decision regarding the complaint, including whether any additional follow-up may be appropriate under HLC policy.

Note: Once a complainant has been notified as to the outcome of HLC’s initial review, HLC will address the complaint from that point forward according to established policies and procedures as appropriate. Following that notification, HLC is unable to provide further updates as to the status of a complaint to a complainant or any other party.

Complaints HLC Does Not Review

The complaint process is intended to pursue only those matters related to potential substantive noncompliance with the Criteria for Accreditation or other HLC requirements. HLC generally expects individuals to attempt to resolve personal issues through the internal grievance procedures of the institution, and/or other processes if applicable, prior to submitting a complaint to HLC.

HLC does not review the outcomes of institutional grievance processes to either uphold or overturn those decisions. In no case will the HLC complaint process be used to provide a specific individual remedy to a complainant. HLC does not intervene in matters of an individual nature, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Obtaining transcripts
  • Financial aid
  • Tuition/bills
  • Satisfactory academic progress
  • Grade/instructor disputes
  • Disciplinary action
  • Employment disputes
  • Interpersonal situations

Additionally, HLC does not:

  • Accept complaints from third parties (the person submitting the complaint must be a party to the complaint)
  • Provide whistleblower protections (protection against retaliation)
  • Review criminal matters
  • Provide advice, including regarding legal matters
  • Review matters older than two years
  • Accept anonymous/confidential complaints

Additional Resources for Complainants

For matters involving potential unlawful discrimination, complainants should contact the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

For matters related to federal student loans or loan servicers, complainants should contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group.

Matters involving compliance with federal regulations can be directed to the Federal Student Aid Office of Enforcement.

State higher education authorities may also accept complaints for certain matters.

Complaints involving potential criminal matters should be directed to the proper law enforcement agency.

Consumer complaints may be directed to certain federal or state agencies, including the appropriate state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission.

HLC cannot provide legal advice, consultation or guidance. Complainants should contact an attorney for legal matters.

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