General Student Grievance and Complaints
As part of Columbia College’s commitment to quality, the College values feedback from its students and believes students should be able to discuss problems or concerns free from duress or retaliation. The College is committed to providing students with avenues to work with College officials toward amical resolutions. The College believes engaging in these processes can also be an inherently valuable educational experience for students and can help prepare students to address issues in a professional productive manner after they leave the College.
All College employees, students, stakeholders and visitors are subject to the provisions of this policy.
This policy and procedure does not displace, and is not intended to supplant, other processes applicable to the handling of student concerns. For example, grade appeals are governed via the academic grade appeal process, financial aid related concerns are governed through the Financial Aid Office.
It is the policy of Columbia College to establish procedures and processes to collect and address issues, and identify trends affecting the institution’s ability to serve its diverse communities. The college is committed to student access to routes for sharing concerns, and to responding to concerns in a timely manner.
Because concerns could arise in any area of college functions, the College designates appropriate functional area administrators for the maintenance and oversight of complaint procedures and processes.
To assess the integrity of the overall system, the college utilizes an ombudsperson to monitor and review formal complaints regarding adherence to College procedures and processes, or for concerns regarding external regulations impacting operations.
Regulation-Specific Concerns and Complaint Processes
Title IX: Concerns or complaints about sex discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are handled in accordance with the College’s Title IX and Sexual Harassment Policy and corresponding procedures.
Non-Discrimination and EEO: Concerns or complaints about discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, not based on sex, are handled in accordance with the College’s Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Policy and corresponding procedures.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Concerns or complaints related to the ADA/Section 504 accommodation process or related to the implementation of approved reasonable accommodations are handled in accordance with the College’s ADA/Section 504 Grievance Policy.
State Regulations: The College is authorized, exempt, certified, licensed, registered or not required to seek approval to offer programs in all states. If the concern is not addressed above, please visit the State Regulatory Information page for specific details related to agency complaint contact information for each state.
Employees receiving a report of a complaint from an external agency should follow the College’s External Agency and Entity Complaint Reporting Policy.
Accreditation: Columbia College has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1918. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission Complaint Process is available on the Higher Learning Commission website.
State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA): Columbia College has been approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). SARA is a national initiative to provide more access to online courses while maintaining compliance standards with state regulatory agencies. SARA allows institutions to provide online courses outside of their own state borders by seeking and maintaining state approvals via a streamlined process. The SARA complaint process can be found here: NC-SARA Complaint Information.
Department of Defense (DoD): Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies have partnered to create an online complaint system designed to collect feedback on problem concerns with education institutions experienced by Veterans, Service members and their families pursuing higher education through the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, Military Tuition Assistance and other education benefit programs.
General Columbia College Concerns and Complaint Processes
Students with concerns are encouraged to begin to resolve the issue within the area where their concern arises. Common starting places and guidance documents for concerns are:
- Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures
- Academic Probation and Dismissal Policy for Graduate Students
- Academic Probation, Suspension and Dismissal Policy for Undergraduate Students
- Failure to Pay Policy
- Financial Aid Disbursement Policy
- Non-Degree Seeking Undergraduate Student Policy
- Notification of Financial Aid Status and Awards Policy
- Return of Title IV Funds Policy
- Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy
- Student Behavioral Misconduct Policy and Procedures
- Student Code of Conduct
- Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy
- Tuition Refund Policy
Additional Columbia College Policies:
General grievances not covered under other policies
If a student believes there are concerns not covered under exisiting policies or procedures (including syllabi, handbooks, and the college catalog), they may submit an informal complaint to the manager of that area – this can be verbal or in writing.
While the student is encouraged to use the informal process, they may at any time elect to engage the formal complaint process, by submitting a written complaint documenting the College policies and procedures that are of concern and should include, at a minimum, the student’s name, student number, details, and a written account of the complaint, and a desired outcome.
Within ten (10) business days of receipt of a written grievance, the College official over the area will review the materials and contact the student to verify receipt of the grievance, clarify any information provided by the student, and request any additional information that may be needed. The College official will then undertake efforts to evaluate and investigate the student’s complaint within thirty (30) business days of receipt of the student’s formal written complaint, although circumstances may warrant a lengthier period of time and the student will be notified of the same.
The College official will provide the student with a written notification of the determination and outcome of their grievance.
On occasion, a student may believe that processes have not adequately been followed and/or there has been inequitable application of written College policies or procedures (including syllabi, handbooks, and the college catalog); state consumer protection laws (including, but not limited to, fraud and false advertising); alleged violations of state laws or rules relating to the licensure of postsecondary institutions; and complaints relating to the quality of education or other state regulatory requirements. In these instances, the student may contact the Ombuds with details of the process followed and concerns with the application of policy or procedure.
Dr. Victoria Steel, Director of Institutional Compliance, is the Ombuds contact for Columbia College. The Ombuds will coordinate investigations with appropriate parties related to compliance with standards of practice, stated policies, procedures, and regulations. For such matters, please email CCCompliance@CCIS.edu or call (573) 875-7792.
If the student grievance cannot be resolved after exhausted the College's grievance process and appeal procedure, the student may file a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Private Post-Secondary Education. The student must contact the State Board External link for further details. The State Board's address is: 1400 W. Washington, Room 260, Phoenix, AZ 85007; and the phone number is (602) 542-5709.