All higher education institutions that receive federal funds, including those that offer distance education, are required by the United States Department of Education to provide students with appropriate information regarding the filing of complaints.
Students have the right to file a complaint against an institution when federal and state requirements are not followed or when there is a loss of tuition and fees as a result of unfair business practices. Institutions are required to provide both current and prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accrediting body and the appropriate state agency for handling complaints in a student's resident state.
Students should be aware that this complaint process is separate from the University's Grievance Procedure, which addresses academic and non-academic grievances.
In most cases, external complaint procedures require that the student exhaust all avenues internal to the institution before a complaint can be filed at the state or accrediting agency level. Gardner-Webb students are therefore advised to first attempt to address complaints through the grievance policies and procedures outlined in their respective Student Handbook.
How does this apply to Distance Learners at Gardner-Webb?
North Carolina Students
If you have a complaint about the University's distance education programs, and you are a resident of North Carolina, you may contact the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice.
The mailing address of the Consumer Protection Division is
North Carolina Department of Justice
Consumer Protection Division
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
The phone number is 1-877-566-7226.
An online complaint form is available at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint.
Students Outside North Carolina
The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) serves as the SARA portal entity for North Carolina with the responsibilities defined by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). Among the responsibilities assigned to the state portal entity is shepherding the resolution of, investigating and resolving as necessary complaints from distance education students who reside outside of the state and who have complaints regarding the institutions that participate in SARA North Carolina. Students not residing in North Carolina and enrolled in a North Carolina institution that operates under SARA North Carolina may submit complaints to NCSEAA only after completing the complaint process established by the institution attended by the student.
Initial responsibility for the investigation and resolution of student complaints resides with the institution against which the complaint is made. Students must exhaust all opportunities for resolution at the institution before filing a complaint with the NCSEAA. Complaints regarding grades or student conduct violations are governed entirely by institutional policy and are not subject to review by NCSEAA.
Students who have exhausted institutional grievance processes and remain dissatisfied with the outcome may file a written complaint with NCSEAA within two years of the incident that is the issue of the complaint. Anonymous complaints will not be reviewed.
How to File a Complaint with NCSEAA
Using the student complaint form available at www.saranc.org, describe your complaint and provide supporting documentation, including the outcome of the institutional complaint process. Follow the instructions on the web site to submit your form. Documentation may also be submitted by US Mail to
SARA North Carolina Director
PO Box 14103
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
- The NCSEAA will review a complaint that falls within its authority within 30 calendar days upon receipt. Qualifying complaints will be forwarded to the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) for review.
- Reviews will be completed within 60 calendar days of the date a complaint is received. Staff representing the entities listed above will conduct initial reviews and submit findings and recommendations for resolution, if any, to the SARA North Carolina Director. The Director may extend the review by an additional 30 calendar days for a total of 90 days if necessary to ensure full understanding of the issues related to the complaint.
- If a complaint cannot be resolved by mutual agreement within the allotted period of time, the SARA North Carolina Director may deem that no action is needed, seek more information, or recommend action against an institution.
- The SARA North Carolina Director may consult with the SARA North Carolina Advisory Council before recommending action against an institution. Action may include direction to the institution to adhere to its institutional refund policy when the institution has not done so voluntarily.
- Any disposition by the SARA North Carolina Director is final with the exception of the decision to take an action against an institution based on a complaint. Should the Director choose to recommend action against an institution, such an action must be approved by the NCSEAA Board of Directors. The recommendation becomes final and binding following the Board’s approval. Nothing in this process precludes the State of North Carolina from using the laws of North Carolina to pursue action against an institution that violates those laws.
- The SARA NC Director will communicate the finding to the complainant and the institution involved in the complaint.
Gardner-Webb University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097: Telephone Number 404-679-4501) to award Associate, Baccalaureate, Master's and Doctoral degrees. Complaints regarding the institution’s accreditation may be directed to the Commission using the above address. Inquiries to the Commission should relate only to the accreditation status of the institution and not to general admission information. Instructions on how to file a complaint with SACSCOC are available here.
Finally, military personnel who receive tuition assistance have an additional complaint process available. When a school fails to follow the “Principles of Excellence” established by executive order of the President on April 27, 2012, students who are veterans may submit a complaint through this website.
Students who are current military personnel may submit a complaint with the Postsecondary Education Complaint System. Complaints to external authorities typically assume that a student has exhausted all internal avenues to resolve a complaint. Veterans and military personnel with questions about their bills or financial aid my contact the Student Accounts or Financial Planning Office at Gardner-Webb.
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