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.

In general, complaints differ from grievance procedures. Grievance and appeal procedures are integrated within existing policies. They vary based on the nature and context of the concern. The University’s Grievance and Appeal Procedures can be found in each of the Student Handbooks on pages:

Traditional Undergraduate Student Handbook

Please scroll down the Institutional Policies page to locate the Student Grievance Policy section.

Undergraduate Degree Completion Student Handbook (p.40) located on Blackboard under Online Degree Completion Tab.

Graduate Student Handbook

A complaint that cannot be resolved following one of the University’s Grievance or Appeal Procedures will still be received by the University and directed to the person or office most directly responsible for the area of concern. Please use the following contact information to communicate a complaint if you are unsure of the appropriate campus authority to respond to it:

Lesley Villarose, VP for Student Development and Dean of Students
Gardner-Webb University
PO Box 7271
Boiling Springs, NC 28017
(704) 406-2081
[email protected]

Students are encouraged to use the institutional complaint form for this purpose.

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
(877) 566-7226
Complaint Process and Form

Students Outside North Carolina

SARA North Carolina 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-NC. Students not residing in North Carolina and enrolled in a North Carolina institution that operates under SARA-NC may submit complaints to SARA-NC 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 SARA-NC. Complaints regarding grades or student conduct violations are governed entirely by institutional policy and are not subject to review by SARA-NC.

Students who have exhausted institutional grievance processes and remain dissatisfied with the outcome may file a written complaint with SARA-NC within two years of the incident that is the issue of the complaint. Anonymous complaints will not be reviewed.

Here is the link to and/or information about Complaint Process by state: view link

How to File a Complaint With SARA-NC

Students may access the SARA-NC complaint process through the SARA-NC website. Describe your complaint and provide supporting documentation, including the outcome of the institutional complaint process. Follow the instructions on the website to submit your form.

The Student Complaint Form may also be submitted by US Mail to:

SARA North Carolina Director
North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority
PO Box 41349
Raleigh, NC 27629
Tel: (855) 727-2162 (toll free)
[email protected]

  • NC-SARA 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.

Agencies Outside North Carolina

If a student wishes to contact the state portal agency for his or her home state, contact information for the liaison personnel in each SARA state can be found on the SARA-NC website.

Accreditation-Related Complaints

Gardner-Webb University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097: Telephone Number (404) 679-4500; to award Associate, Baccalaureate, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. 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 online.

Veterans’ Assistance

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 U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs. 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.

Need Help?

For questions about undergraduate admissions, please call (866) 498-4625 or email [email protected].

For questions about graduate admissions, please call (877) 498-4723 or email [email protected].