In accordance with Wis. Stats. Ch. 39.85, et. al., any current or former student enrolled in an online distance education program with an institution that has been approved to offer distance education programs pursuant to the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) may use this form to file a complaint against the institution. This complaint process shall only apply to the distance education activity of the institution which is conducted across state lines. No other complaints shall be considered by the DLAB. However, other resolution options may be available to the complainant as noted below.
For purposes of this process, a complaint shall be defined as a formal assertion in writing that the terms of this agreement, or of laws, standards or regulations incorporated by the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements Policies and Standards (SARA Policies and Standards) are being violated by a person, institution, state, agency or other organization or entity operating under the terms of SARA.
The DLAB has jurisdiction to consider only complaints or disputes that include the following criteria and factors:
- The institution participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement through the approval of the State of Wisconsin Distance Learning Authorization Board (DLAB) to offer distance education programs out of state. and
- The complainant has exhausted all internal complaint or grievance options available at the institution and no acceptable outcome was reached; and
- The complaint relates to an issue, dispute or incident involving the distance education program being offered by the institution which occurred within two (2) calendar years from the date of the alleged violation(s); and
- One or more of the allegations relate to the complaint:
- The institution's distance education program does not meet the state authorization requirements in Section 3 (Institutions and Participation) of the SARA Policy and Standards; or
- The institution violated Section 4 (Consumer Protection) of the SARA Policy and Standards; or
- The institution's distance education program does not meet any other standards established by the institution's accrediting agency or SARA
The DLAB has no statutory or lawful authority or responsibility to respond to complaints related to course grades, academic sanctions or discipline/conduct matters in regard to any institution within the State of Wisconsin.
If all of the criteria and factors are present to give DLAB jurisdiction over this matter, then the complainant shall complete an online complaint form (link below) that shall include at minimum, a detailed statement of the nature of the incident(s) in question, any monies owed or balances due, names and titles of faculty, staff or students who are involved in the incident(s), documentation of records relating to the complaint, a summary of any resolution offered by the institution or the reason why an internal resolution was not reached, what remedy is being sought, and any other documentation that may assist the DLAB in factual determination of the merits of the complaint.
By completing and submitting the complaint form, the complainant is hereby consenting and affirming to the following:
- That he/she is a current or former student of an institution that is approved by the DLAB to participate in SARA.
- That the complainant is hereby giving permission and consent to the DLAB and its agents to contact the institution in question, share the complaint and all related details with the institution and obtain a copy of any relevant information that will assist DLAB in responding to the complaint (including student records that may be protected under federal or state privacy laws);
- That the information provided by the complainant herein is complete, true and correct to the best of the complainant's knowledge and belief
The complaint form must be completed in full and meet all of the conditions above before the DLAB will consider said complaint. The DLAB will send the complainant a written confirmation of said complaint by email to verify the next steps in the process.
The complaint form (and required release) may be found at the following link to be downloaded, printed and submitted by mail or hand-delivery to the governing body of the institution in question or the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board for any for-profit institutions:
- DLAB Complaint Form
Include a written release for educational records to DLAB for purpose of obtaining necessary educational records to process the complaint.
Upon receipt of the complaint and after determining that the complaint is timely and meets all of the conditions above, the DLAB's designee(s) will conduct a review of said complaint to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that one or more of the violations alleged has occurred. As a part of the review process, the DLAB's designee(s) may do any of the following:
- Upon receipt of the complaint, the DLAB's designee(s) will conduct an initial review of the allegations contained in the complaint to verify that the complaint meets the necessary requirements for jurisdiction and is timely. If the complaint fails to meet the criteria, the DLAB's designee(s) may dismiss the complaint and no further action shall be required.
- If all criteria and factors are present, the DLAB's designee(s) will notify the institution of the complaint and then conduct a full review of the allegations contained in the complaint and then request any additional information from either the complainant, the institution or other relevant sources as necessary to properly consider the complaint and make a determination. The parties shall be expected to fully cooperate in this review process. Failure to do so may lead to dismissal of the complaint or a determination issued. The review process shall be completed within thirty (30) calendar days from its initiation, unless additional time is necessary to properly complete the review or investigation process.
- Upon completion of the review process, the DLAB's designee(s) shall issue written findings and recommendations to the DLAB for consideration and approval. A copy of said findings and recommendations shall be provided to the complainant and the institution.
- Within thirty (30) days of receipt of the DLAB's designee(s)'s submission of the findings and/or recommendations, the DLAB may issue one or more of the following findings and/or determinations as long as such is within DLAB's authority under SARA Policy and Standards:
- Dismiss the complaint due to insufficient evidence to find that a violation of one or more of the alleged violations occurred;
- Dismiss the complaint due to lack of cooperation or participation on the part of the complainant;
- Find that there was sufficient evidence to show that a violation occurred in which a recommended course of action will be provided to the institution that is consistent with the authority granted under SARA Policy and Standards; or
- Refer the complaint to another state agency with jurisdiction and authority over the issue.
The decision of the DLAB shall be final. The complainant may pursue further remedies or claims pursuant to applicable state or federal laws or administrative processes.
The complainant shall provide a written consent and/or release to the DLAB and/or the institution in order to allow the disclosure of any and all protected or confidential information that may pertain to the complaint in order to allow DLAB to conduct a proper review or investigation of the allegations contained in the complaint. The consent or release shall allow DLAB or the institution to disclose any educational records or other relevant information in order to assist in the review, investigation and resolution of the complaint. It should be noted that state law may also provide for the public disclosure of any existing record or document that is a part of the complaint review process under the Wisconsin Open Records Law, Wis. Stats. 19.31, unless specifically exempt from disclosure by law.
In the event that DLAB determines that the complaint is not within the DLAB's jurisdiction, or is untimely or is dismissed on other grounds, there may be other agencies or offices that may have jurisdiction to consider the complaint. Below is a non-exhaustive list of a few regulatory agencies that may be able to assist the complainant:
- Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, http://dpi.wi.gov/
- Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, http://dsps.wi.gov/Home
- U.S. Department of Education, http://www.ed.gov/
- Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, http://eab.state.wi.us/
- State of Wisconsin Program Integrity Regulation Complaint Process (see individual institution's webpage for further information)
For information related to individual institution complaints or other concerns related to the responsibilities of the DLAB in regard to the enforcement of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements Policies and Standards, please contact the following for the particular institution involved:
Institutions within the University of Wisconsin System
University of Wisconsin Office of Academic Affairs
Non-profit, independent Institutions
Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
(608) 256-7761, ex. 234
Wisconsin Technical Colleges
For-profit institutions (including for-profits that are not part of MSARA)
Wisconsin Education Approval Board
Wisconsin Tribal Colleges and Universities
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
(715) 634-4790 ext. 117