Colleges and career schools that are licensed or registered with the Office of Higher Education are required to:
- comply with Minnesota Statutes 136A.61 to 136A.833
- comply with Minnesota Administrative Rules Chapter 4840 and 4880
- follow their internal policies and procedures, and
- use marketing materials or recruiting practices that are not deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate.
If you did not have a good experience or believe that a career school or college has not met these requirements, you can file a complaint with the Office of Higher Education. As a part of the Agency's regulatory oversight, we will investigate and respond to complaints and, if justified, take action to prevent future problems.
When a Complaint May Be Filed with the Office of Higher Education
Please take the following steps prior to filing a complaint with the Office of Higher Education:
1. Bring the problem to the institution's attention.
Many issues can be handled quickly and informally once the institution is aware of your concern. For more serious problems, you must follow the institution's formal grievance policy, first. If you call us before you have pursued all internal options, we may have to defer taking your complaint until you can verify that the institution will not respond adequately.
2. Determine whether your institution is regulated by the Office of Higher Education.
The Office of Higher Education cannot deal with complaints about the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Complaints about public institutions should be made to the institution or to the system's central administration.
Please refer to the list of licensed or registered institutions to determine whether our office regulates your institution. If your institution is not on these lists, contact our office if you feel like the institution should be on this list.
3. Determine whether the problem is with the requirements we administer.
The Office of Higher Education can only act to assure that private institutions comply with the state statutes that we administer. Some problems fall outside of our jurisdiction. When another state or federal office should address your concern, we will refer you.
For example, if you feel discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual identity, handicap, age, or membership in a patriotic youth organization we will refer you to the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
4. Complaints should be submitted to the office within six years of the alleged violation.
It can be challenging to fully investigation your concerns if you wait too long to file a complaint with our office. As more time passes, the ability to secure documentation on your concern is reduced. Our office cannot investigate a complaint if the alleged issue occurred greater than six years ago.
5. Identify yourself.
Our ability to take action is restricted or reduced if you file an anonymous complaint. We prefer that you give your name, address, telephone number, and email address on the written complaint form. Our office will be unable to follow-up with you on the status of your complaint if you do not provide your contact information.
How to File a Complaint
1. If you are unsure about whether you should file a complaint:
Consider contacting us first to discuss your complaint. We can explain the complaint procedures and let you know whether the Office of Higher Education, or another agency, can address your problem.
2. You must fill out the student complaint form in order for us to address your complaint.
Include as much detail as possible, including the exact nature of the complaint, dates of incidents, names of people at the institution that have been involved, who you have worked with in trying to resolve the complaint internally, and copies of any written documentation. Specificity will be critical to our office's investigation.
3. Attach documentation to the student complaint form.
Keep records that provide evidence of the problem and your efforts to solve it through internal processes. Documentation will help you make your case with the institution and help us learn about the issue and investigate.
4. Send the student complaint form to the Office of Higher Education.
Our office needs a "wet" signature as the signature on the back is the privacy release that our office needs to speak to the school about your academic file. The complaint form can be digitized (by scanning or taking a photo with a smart phone) and then emailed, mailed, or faxed it to the contact information below:
Registration & Licensing
Office of Higher Education
1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 350
St. Paul, MN 55108
651-259-3975 or 1-800-657-3866
secure fax 651-797-1664
How Complaints are Handled
The Office of Higher Education takes the following steps when you file a written complaint about a private college or career school:
We will review your written complaint and initiate an investigation
We will prepare a letter to the institution outlining the nature of the allegations and provide the institution with a copy of the complaint. The letter will request a written response regarding the specific situation in the complaint.
If our office finds that the nature of your complaint is not related to our office's requirements or standards, you will notify you in writing that we are not taking any further action on your complaint.
We may contact you
We may ask clarifying questions or gather additional evidence in support of your complaint. We may also seek verification of the complaint from independent sources who may have witnessed events or have other documentation.
We will review the institution's response and offer you the opportunity to respond.
We will determine whether your school failed to comply with our office's requirements and standards.
We may request more information from the institution or from you after we received the institution's response to your complaint. We may conduct additional investigation, including an on-campus review.
We will take final action on the complaint
If we determined that a school did not comply with our office's requirements and standards, we will notify you and the institution of any required action necessary to bring the institution into compliance.
If the complaint does not appear to indicate a violation of legal requirements, we will inform you and the school in writing.
NOTE: The Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) generally limits what can be disclosed from complaint files, and under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, the Office of Higher Education cannot disclose unsubstantiated complaints to other parties.