Distance Education - Department of Education Compliance


Recent amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 include changes in regulations for State Authorization that may impact online, distance, and correspondence education providers. The relevant language includes:

If an institution is offering post-secondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering post-secondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State's approval upon request.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1001 and 1002)

Pursuant to the provisions of the 2012 Edition of the U.S. Code, Title 20-Education, on request, LSCO will provide the stipulated documentation to the Secretary of the Department of Education regarding instruction offered to Distance Education students living outside of Texas. LSCO is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA). NC-SARA is a voluntary nationwide reciprocity agreement for the provision of distance education and is open to Lamar State College Orange as a consequence of the College’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Additional information regarding NC-SARA can be accessed via the following link: https://nc-sara.org/sara-students

In compliance with the language passed in the Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) conducted a Negotiated Rule Making Process in 2010. Institutions offering distance education must provide enrolled and prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accrediting agency and with the appropriate state agency for handling complaints in the student's state.

To file a formal written complaint with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a complainant must submit two signed copies of the SACSCOC Complaint Form, sent via ground mail, to:

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, GA 30033-4097

The complaint form can be accessed via the following link: https://sacscoc.org/app/uploads/2020/01/ComplaintPolicy-1.pdf

Complaint Resolution Process

Students desiring to file initial complaints about services, faculty and staff, or activities should bring the complaints to the attention of the appropriate department head for resolution. If an acceptable resolution is not reached within five working days, the student can then file a formal written complaint. In the event that a student wishes to file a formal written complaint, a Complaint Intake Form may be completed in the office of the Dean of Student Services or may be accessed remotely on the Lamar State College Orange Blackboard Learn Student Services tab, in the Student Resources module.  After the formal complaint is received, the form will be referred to the appropriate department, and the complaint will be resolved within ten (10) working days and the complainant notified in writing. Procedures for specific types of grievances can be found on Blackboard Learn in the Texas State University System Rules and Regulations manual, the LSCO Faculty Handbook, the LSCO Student Handbook, and the LSCO Catalog.

If the issue is unable to be resolved internally, a student may file a complaint with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the regulatory agency governing post-secondary education in Texas.

To file a formal written complaint with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), a complainant must first exhaust all institutional options for resolving the complaint.

If after that the matter is unresolved, the complainant must follow the procedure outlined on the THECB’s Student Complaints website, accessible via the following link:  https://www.highered.texas.gov/links/student-complaints/

Submissions must include a signed “THECB Student Complaint and Authorization Form” with documentation of the completion of the institutional procedures and evidence to support the complainant’s claim. Submission may be made online by uploading the required documents to StudentComplaints@highered.texas.gov or by ground mail to: 

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Office of General Counsel
P.O. Box 12788
Austin, Texas 78711-2788

The complaint form can be accessed via the following link:  https://reportcenter.highered.texas.gov/agency-publication/blank-forms-templates/student-complaints-form/

Students Enrolled in Distance Education Courses

Complaints should be filed in the state where the student is receiving instruction, not in the state in which the student resides. For example, a student residing in Louisiana but taking courses in Texas should file his/her complaint with the state contact for Texas.

Complaints against a SARA participating institution must first go through the institution's own grievance procedures. All complaints regarding student grades or conduct violations are governed by the institution and the laws of the institution's home state. 

If a student is not satisfied with the outcome of the institutional grievance process, the student may appeal, within two years of the incident, to the SARA portal agency of the institution's home state.

For all complaints regarding Texas degree-granting postsecondary institutions participating in SARA, complete the Student Complaint and Release Form and email the form to Student.Complaints@highered.texas.gov

Next Steps