Overview: The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) adopted rules codified under Title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code, Sections 1.110 – 1.120, on October 25, 2012. The rules create a student complaint procedure to comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s “Program Integrity” regulations, which require each state to have a student complaint procedure in order for public and private higher education institutions to be eligible for federal Title IV funds. In December 2011, the Office of Attorney General of Texas issued an opinion stating that THECB has authority under Texas Education Code Section 61.031 to promulgate procedures for handling student complaints concerning higher education institutions.
How to submit a Student Complaint: After exhausting the institution's grievance/complaint process, current, former, and prospective students may initiate a complaint with THECB by sending the required forms either by electronic mail to StudentComplaints@thecb.state.tx.us, or by mail to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Office of General Counsel, P.O. Box 12788, Austin, Texas 78711-2788. Facsimile transmissions of the forms are not accepted.
All submitted complaints must include a student complaint form, a signed Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Consent and Release form, and a THECB Consent and Agreement Form. Submitted complaints regarding students with disabilities shall also include a signed Authorization to Disclose Medical Record Information form. Links to the forms are set forth below:The following forms are required to start the complaint process:
· THECB Student Complaint Form – Required.
· FERPA Consent and Release Form – Required.
· THECB Consent and Agreement Form – Required.
· Authorization to Disclose Medical Record Information – Required Form only if a disability is alleged.
The Agency does not handle, investigate, or attempt to resolve complaints concerning actions that occurred more than two years prior to filing a student complaint form with the Agency, unless the cause of the delay in filing the student complaint form with the Agency was the complainant’s exhaustion of the institution’s grievance procedures.
Former students shall file a student complaint form with the Agency no later than one year after the student’s last date of attendance at the institution, or within 6 months of discovering the grounds for complaint, unless the cause of the delay in filing the student complaint form with the Agency was the complainant’s exhaustion of the institution’s grievance procedures.
The first step in addressing a complaint is to follow your institution's complaint procedures. If your institution is unable to resolve the matter after you have exhausted their complaint and appeal processes, you may file a complaint with this Agency. Once the Agency receives a student complaint form, the Agency may refer the complaint to other agencies or entities as follows:
THECB will refer complaints alleging that an institution has violated state consumer protection laws to the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas for investigation and resolution, and will refer complaints pertaining to a component institution in a university system to the appropriate university system for investigation and resolution. E.g., complaints pertaining to an institution in the University of Texas System, Texas A&M University System, University of Houston System, University of North Texas System, Texas Tech University System, or Texas State University System shall be referred to the appropriate university system for investigation and resolution.
Further, if THECB determines that a complaint is appropriate for investigation and resolution, by the institution’s accrediting agency or an educational association such as ICUT (Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas, Inc.), the Agency may refer the complaint to the accrediting agency or educational association. THECB has the right to adopt any decision made by the accrediting agency or educational association, and may terminate the referral of the complaint to those entities at any time and proceed to investigate and adjudicate the complaint.
If a student complaint concerns compliance with the statutes and regulations that THECB administers and the complaint has not been referred to another entity, THECB Office of General Counsel (OGC) staff, often with the assistance of other THECB staff, will initiate an investigation. Prior to initiating an investigation, however, the student must exhaust all grievance/complaint and appeal procedures that the institution has established to address student complaints and provide documentation to OGC of such exhaustion.
As part of its investigation, THECB will request a response from the institution, and may also contact other persons or entities named in the student’s complaint or in the institution’s response, in order to ascertain all relevant facts. During its investigation, THECB will, in appropriate cases, attempt to facilitate an informal resolution to the complaint that is mutually satisfactory to the student and institution. In cases in which an informal resolution between the student and the institution is not feasible, THECB will evaluate the results of the investigation of the student complaint and recommend a course of action to the Commissioner. After receiving staff’s recommendation, the Commissioner will consider the recommendation regarding the complaint and render a written determination either dismissing the complaint or requiring the institution to take specific actions to remedy the complaint. The Commissioner may also request the Board to review and decide issues that regard institutional integrity.