State Council of Higher Education for Virginia




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Student Complaints

In accordance with federal and state regulations, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) provides the following information for students wishing to file a formal complaint about a condition or incident involving a postsecondary school operating in Virginia.

The vast majority of complaints – a concern that a policy or procedure of the institution has been incorrectly or unfairly applied in one’s particular case – should be resolved with the school itself. Postsecondary institutions participating in federal student financial aid programs are required to maintain formal grievance procedures. Federal regulation requires the Commonwealth to designate an agency to respond to grievances from students attending institutions located in the Virginia regardless of delivery format (on-line, face-to-face, hybrid); credential awarded (degree, certificate, diploma); or institutional type (public, private, for-profit, non-profit). Virginia Code also requires private schools certified to operate by SCHEV to have formal complaint procedures for students. The school’s student handbook usually describes the steps students must take to begin a grievance process. SCHEV will not investigate a complaint unless the student has exhausted all available grievance procedures outlined by the institution.

When approaching the institution with a concern or complaint, students should provide detailed information about the nature of the complaint, including dates, times, and full names of all involved, as well as the policy or procedure violated (if known). Students may be asked to include supporting material that substantiates their complaint.

If a student has exhausted the avenues provided by the institution and the complaint has not been resolved internally, the student can submit a “Student Complaint Form” to SCHEV. Upon receiving a completed form, SCHEV will open an investigation if the matter being disputed falls within its authority. If preliminary findings indicate a violation of SCHEV regulations by the institution, SCHEV shall attempt to resolve the complaint through mediation. All parties will be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation. 

Please note that SCHEV has no authority or role regarding issues of employment law, claims of discrimination, or instances of suspected consumer fraud.  Such complaints should be directed to the appropriate state or federal agency.

Complaint Process

In accordance with § VAC 40-31-100 of the Virginia Administrative Code, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) is responsible for investigating all written and signed student complaints against postsecondary educational institutions operating in Virginia.

In order for SCHEV to initiate an investigation, the following must be true:

  • The student has exhausted all available grievance procedures established by the institution. 
  • The student did not receive a satisfactory resolution and is contacting SCHEV as a last resort in the grievance process.
  • The student has submitted the complaint to SCHEV electronically using the “Student Complaint Form” (below). The student’s complaint must contain a detailed description of the claim, including dates, times, and full names of all involved, as well as the actions taken by both the student and the school to resolve the matter. 
  • The student has electronically signed the form attesting to the truth and accuracy of the complaint.
  • The student recognizes that SCHEV will not investigate anonymous complaints.  By signing the form, the student acknowledges that SCHEV may share the information provided with the school or other relevant organizations, in order to help resolve the dispute. SCHEV does not guarantee a resolution resulting from this submission or its investigation into the allegation.

Upon receiving a student complaint, SCHEV will open an investigation if the matter being disputed falls within its jurisdiction. If preliminary findings indicate a violation of SCHEV regulations by the institution, SCHEV shall attempt to resolve the complaint through mediation. All parties will be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation.  If the complaint is outside of SCHEV’s jurisdiction, it may be directed to the institution’s Board of Visitors, accrediting body, or to another agency that is authorized to address the concerns, if appropriate.

The student may be contacted during the investigation to submit documented evidence of the allegations against the institution, which may include copies of enrollment agreement, contracts, syllabi, receipts, financial aid notices, promissory notes, or relevant correspondences from the institution related to the complaint. Students should not submit original documents, as they may not be returned.

Students are reminded that they always have the right to seek advice from a private attorney. Students should be aware that submission of a complaint will be recorded and may be used for statistical reporting or other purposes.

Please contact SCHEV at (804) 371-2285 if you have any questions about the student complaint procedure.

Before proceeding, please verify that

  1. You have exhausted all available grievance procedures established by the institution; and
  2. You did not receive a satisfactory resolution and is contacting SCHEV as a last resort in the grievance process.

If the above two statements were true, please fill out the Student Complaint Form in its entirety and submit it electronically to SCHEV.

© 2016 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
101 N. 14th Street, 10th Floor  |  James Monroe Building   |  Richmond, VA 23219
804-225-2600