Accredited programs and institutions are expected to continue to meet the CEA Standards during the term of accreditation. A student, faculty or staff member, or any individual outside the program or institution who may have knowledge of an accredited program or institution’s alleged failure to maintain the CEA Standards may file a complaint with CEA. In reviewing a complaint, CEA’s policies intend to provide judicious review of the complainant’s concern regarding compliance with the CEA Standards while ensuring due process for the site.
15.1.1. Notice requirements
Each accredited program or institution is required to post the CEA Standards in a public place accessible to all students, faculty, staff, and the public. In addition, CEA requires the site to post the procedures for filing a complaint, which are provided by CEA. The document includes information on why a complaint may be filed, who may file, how to file, and how complaints are adjudicated.
15.1.2. Failure to report substantive change
If an accredited program or institution is delinquent in reporting a substantive change, a complaint may be filed. Such complaints may be filed by anyone who believes the site has failed to report such a substantive change regardless of whether this change has resulted in noncompliance with the CEA Standards. Such complaints should explain how, in process or content, the program or institution has substantively changed since it was accredited, as well as the nature of any alleged failure to maintain the CEA Standards as a result of this change. Any available documents showing the changes should be included.
15.2.1. Informal or undocumented complaints
Upon receipt of an anonymous or undocumented complaint, the executive director will promptly provide a copy of the CEA complaints policy to the sender, if contact information is available. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the executive director may inform the site of the complaint and undertake investigation of the complaint through a written information request to the site against which the complaint is lodged. If the basis of the complaint warrants, the executive director will inform the Executive Committee, which will decide whether to advance the complaint to the Standards Compliance Committee for further action. The Standards Compliance Committee may act within the policies assigned in these Policies and Procedures. The executive director can initiate a special site visit based on information received by any means.
15.2.2. Formal complaints
A formal complaint must be written, must refer to a specific standard(s), and must document the nature of the noncompliance.
a. If submitted by mail, the complainant’s signature, address, and phone number must be submitted on a separate piece of paper.
b. If submitted by secure electronic means, the complainant’s name, address, and contact information must be available with the submission.
c. A copy of the complaint, without the name and contact information of the complainant, will be shared with the site to start the process of adjudicating the complaint.
d. Within five working days of receiving a formal complaint, the executive director reviews the complaint in order to establish that it
i. relates to compliance with CEA Standards or adherence to the CEA Policies and Procedures
e. The executive director will inform the complainant in writing of whether the complaint will go forward. If the complaint does not go forward, the executive director will provide a written explanation to the complainant of the reasons.
f. If the complaint goes forward as a formal complaint, the following steps take place.
i. The executive director will send the original copy of the complaint to the contact person for the program or institution and invite a written response.
ii. Within 30 working days after the program or institutions receives the complaint, the reply, along with any accompanyingdocumentation, must be received at the CEA central office.
iii. Within three working days of receipt of the response, a true copy of the complaint and the response will be forwarded to the Standards Compliance Committee (SCC)
iv. Within 15 working days of receipt of the materials, the SCC which will review the material and make a recommendation to the Executive Committee within 15 working days.
v. Within 15 working days of receipt of the recommendation from the SCC, he Executive Committee must respond to the recommendation.
15.2.3. Possible Actions
The Standards Compliance Committee may recommend and the Executive Committee may take the following actions:
a. Recommend dismissal of the complaint
The Standards Compliance Committee will recommend dismissal of the complaint if it is satisfied that the program or institution remains in compliance with the CEA Standards.
i. If the Standards Compliance Committee determines that the program or institution remains in compliance with the CEA Standards but with minor standards-related deficiencies, it will recommend dismissal of the complaint with reporting requirements and/or recommendations.
ii. If the Executive Committee approves the recommendation for dismissal, with or without reporting requirements and/or recommendations, it will notify the program or institution and the complainant of the decision; the action is over.
iii. If the Executive Committee does not approve the Standards Compliance Committee’s recommendation, it may order additional investigation or other appropriate action.
b. Recommend investigation of the complaint
If the Standards Compliance Committee determines that more information is required to determine whether the program or institution is in compliance with the CEA Standards, it will make a recommendation to the Executive Committee for an additional investigation.
i. The SCC will specify what questions the investigation is designed to answer and indicate specifically the additional investigation recommended (e.g., conducting a site visit, requiring additional documentation, meeting with personnel, or meeting with the complainant).
ii. The Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the Commission, will decide whether to approve the investigation recommended by the SCC, order a different form of investigation, or dismiss the action.
iii. If the Executive Committee orders an investigation, it will allocate resources appropriate for the investigation.
iv. The investigation will be completed within 30 working days.
v. Within 10 working days of the conclusion of the investigation, a written report of the results of the investigation will be prepared by the Standards Compliance Committee and sent to the program or institution.
vi. The site will be given an opportunity to respond to the written report of the investigation and must respond within 15 working days of receipt of the report.
vii. Based on its review of the report of the investigation and the response from the program or institution, the Standards Compliance Committee will recommend either dismissal or resolution with reporting requirements, either of which must be approved by the Executive Committee, or review by the full Commission for specific action.
c. Recommend specific action to the Commission
If the Standards Compliance Committee recommends a specific action, the Executive Committee will review and approve the recommendation for review by the full Commission.
i. The review by the full Commission will be scheduled for the next regular meeting of the Commission.
ii. The full Commission will conduct a de novo review to consider the entire complaint record, including the original complaint, the response of the site, and any materials developed as a result of investigation, including the responses of the site.
iii. The full Commission will then vote on a specific action to be taken. Actions may include dismissal of the complaint with or without reporting requirements, or placing the site on warning with a time frame for taking specific corrective actions.
iv. If a warning is issued and the conditions are not met within the stated time frame, the site may be subject to probation, show cause, and withdrawal of accreditation.
v. In the case of withdrawal of accreditation, a program or institution has the right to appeal, as described in Section 13: Appeals.
15.2.4. Time Frame
Complaints may be filed at any time. CEA will investigate complaints according to the procedures outlined. The resolution of a complaint may take up to seven months, depending on whether a site visit is required and when the complaint is filed in relation to the Commission meeting.
Notice of the Commission’s decision with regard to a complaint shall be made to the program or institution in writing and in accordance with the rules regarding accreditation decisions.
Formal complaints about CEA’s performance in relation to its own procedures and policies may be forwarded to the executive director. Complaints must be in writing, relate to a specific policy or procedure, include appropriate documentation, and be signed by the complainant. Complaints may be filed at any time.
The CEA executive director will seek to resolve the matter with the complainant.
a. If complaints cannot be resolved with satisfaction within 30 working days, the executive director will forward the complaint to the voting members of the Executive Committee.
b. Within 15 working days, the chair, on behalf of the voting members of the Executive Committee, will respond to the complainant.
c. Should the complainant seek further redress, the record of the complaint, including the initial written complaint and any follow-up by the executive director or the voting members of the Executive Committee, will be forwarded to the full Commission at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
d. The complainant will receive a response to the complaint within 30 working days following that meeting.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution, CEA will provide contact information for the U.S. Department of Education’s Accreditation Group. CEA maintains complete records of any complaints against itself, as well as their resolution. Records are available for inspection at the CEA office upon request.
Policy Key and History