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Complaint Process

SARA North Carolina Student Complaint Process

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.

Examples of SARA-Related Complaints:
  1. Veracity of recruitment and marketing materials;
  2. Accuracy of job placement data;
  3. Accuracy of information about tuition, fees and financial aid;
  4. Complete and accurate admission requirements for courses and programs;
  5. Accuracy of information about the Institution's accreditation and/or any programmatic/specialized accreditation held by the institution's programs;
  6. Accuracy of information about whether course work meets any relevant Professional Licensing requirements or the requirements of specialized Accrediting Agencies;
  7. Accuracy of information about whether the Institution's course work will transfer to other Institutions; and
  8. Operation of Distance Education programs consistent with practices expected by institutional accreditors (and, if applicable, programmatic/specialized accreditors) and/or the C-RAC Guidelines for Distance Education.

Filing a Complaint against a SARA North Carolina Institution

Using the student complaint form, 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.
  1. The NCSEAA will review a complaint that falls within its authority within 30 calendar days upon receipt. Qualifying complaints will be forwarded to the appropriate entity, as described below, for resolution:
    1. Complaints against any of the 17 UNC constituent institutions will be forwarded to the Office of Academic and Student Affairs at UNC System Office;
    2. Complaints against any of the 58 state community colleges will be forwarded to the North Carolina Community College System;
    3. Complaints against any of the 36 independent colleges and universities will be forwarded to the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities; and
    4. Complaints against any other institution will be reviewed by the NCSEAA.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The SARA NC Director will communicate the finding to the complainant and the institution involved in the complaint.