Frequently Asked Questions
About Colorado’s Student Appeal Process
Where do I go if I have a problem?
Students have several options to resolve academic problems; some are quicker than others. The first contact should follow the institution’s student appeals process; the second person to contact is the institution’s Academic Vice President. The Department hears appeals if these processes break down. It is the last resort.
Each institution is required to have appeal processes to handle student problems. The appeal process provides an opportunity to have a person or committee objectively look at your specific situation to see if there is a way to resolve it or a mistake has been made (For example, a request for a second transcript evaluation). The most common student appeals pertain to general education courses, transfer, tuition classification, financial aid, faculty problems, or grades.
Colorado guarantees that certain general education courses are universally transferable to general education graduation requirements. A common general education course number identifies these courses. If a student enrolls in a state guaranteed course beginning fall 2003 and has trouble transferring this course, contact the Department by phone or e-mail. The Department will resolve this problem within five days.
Since 1988, Colorado has had transfer guides that provide information on what courses will transfer into approved four-year degree programs. A student must successfully complete the class (grade of C or better). This guarantee does not include correspondence or credit evaluated by an external organization (e.g., CLEP courses, portfolios). Students may appeal a transfer decision by contacting the Admission Director or the Transfer Coordinator at their institution.
A designated person at each institution handles decisions and questions pertaining to tuition classification. The state statute or federal law specifies this authority and the Department cannot overrule, but each institution has an appeal process to have a second review. Tuition classification is one of the few exceptions that cannot be appealed. However, the Department can explain a particular decision or why the institution is limited in its decision.
Each institution is required to have a financial aid appeals process. You will receive information with your financial aid package. An institution publishes information about the financial aid appeals process in student handbooks and the Financial Aid Office.
In general, the institution handles all faculty-related and grading issues. Resolving a personality conflict with a faculty member can often be handled discretely by contacting the Dean or the Vice President of Academic Affairs. These individuals want your college experience to be positive without unnecessary hurdles. The dean or vice president is in the best position to assist you in transferring to another class if the situation warrants such action.
If a student does not get a response to a written appeal in 30 days or feels that an institution did not follow its policies and procedures, you can appeal to the Department to hear your case.
Matters of a criminal nature are best directed to local law enforcement (police, sheriff, etc.), campus police, or the local district attorney. If uncertain how to handle this matter, contact your Student Service Vice President. Counselors will be able to assist you.
If a student disagrees with current institutional policies, the best approach is to get involved with student government. The Student Government Association has a legislative agenda to improve higher education for students and frequently testifies on behalf of all students regarding institutional policies.
What types of complaints can I appeal to the Department?
The Department hears appeals that pertain to “state guaranteed general education” course transferability, violation of the Student Bill of Rights, and non-compliance with Department policies (e.g., Transfer, Student Fees). The Department will also hear appeals that suggest a public higher education institution:
- May lack appropriate policies or procedures required by the Department’s policies.
- Did not follow an institution’s established policies or procedures.
- Did not respond to a student’s written appeal within 30 days.
The Department's appeal process is not designed to resolve disputes between an individual and an institution that involve grades, billing, terms of employment or that involve athletic eligibility. These issues are outside the Department’s area of authority. The Department may be able to facilitate a meeting or identify the correct contact person.
How do I file an appeal with the Department?
Students interested in filing an appeal should submit a signed letter requesting Department assistance. Remember to include a mailing address and phone number so that we can contact you. Under the Privacy Act, we can only discuss a case with the student.
- Write a brief narrative of the facts of the complaint. In most cases, such a narrative need to be no longer than one page.
- Indicate the date you filed an appeal following the institution’s appeal process, with whom, and the type of response received.
- Attach documentation to support your narrative wherever possible. Helpful documentation might include relevant portions of the college catalog, letters exchanged between you and the institution, signed graduation agreements, transcript evaluations, etc.
- Mail the letter and its attachments to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1600, Denver, CO 80202, Attention: Student Appeals.
Can I simply send the Department a copy of an appeal I sent to the institution?
You may include the letter as documentation, but the Department will take no action unless the appeals request is addressed to it.
When copied on a letter sent to an institution, Department staff assume that it is for information purposes only. Because institutional decisions are best resolved within the institution’s own internal appeal processes that have the ability to mediate or order an individual remedy, we do not wish to get in the middle. It may complicate or lengthen the institutional process. We want the simplest and shortest appeal route in all cases.
Can I send an appeal to the Department through e-mail or via the telephone?
Many student problems can be resolved informally, especially connecting the student with the appropriate campus contact person. The Department will respond to e-mail and telephone inquiries. In some cases, Department staff will advise you to file an appeal.
The Department will not process any appeal requests until it is received in writing but an e-mail letter will suffice.
How soon may I expect the Department’s response to my complaint?
The Department staff will indicate whether your appeal is one that the Department can consider by sending you a letter within five days of receiving your complaint. Appeals pertaining to state guaranteed general education courses will be handled within five business days.
If the Department agrees to process my complaint, what happens next?
If the appeal is one that the Department has authority to hear, the appeal will be forwarded to the Department’s Appeal Board. The Appeal Board meets the third Friday of October, November, March and April. Due to finals, the board does not meet in December and May. Since it is preferable that the student and the institution resolve the matter, the appeals process allows 30 days in the beginning of each semester for this to occur. For example, if a student files an appeal with an institution in fall semester, the earliest the appeal can be forwarded to the Department is late September. The Appeal Board would review the case in October.
Once the Department has received your appeal, it will forward your appeal along with a letter from Department staff to the chief executive officer seeking a response to the issue identified. The Department may ask for additional information from you.
Once the Appeals Board has met, the Department will write to you again to indicate its disposition of your appeal. In most cases, the institution is likely to have been able to provide the Department with adequate assurances that it has appropriate policies in place and has conducted decision-making in accordance with those policies OR that it has recognized a problem and initiated corrective action. In rare cases, where the issues are exceptionally serious and far-reaching, the Department may schedule an on-site evaluation visit to consider the issues further.
If I am worried about revealing my identity, can I file my appeal anonymously?
Anonymous complaints are difficult for the Department to process even when they appear to raise relevant issues. The Department has no way to ask for additional information or verify the facts. The Department does protect student names when referring a case to an Appeal Board. Only the Department staff and the college president has access to the student’s name.
Individuals may request that the Department keep their identity confidential to the extent possible and include the reasons for the request. In rare cases, the Department may be able to summarize the information raised by the complainant when discussing a case with the college president.
What is the Student Bill of Rights?
23-1-125. Commission directive - student bill of rights
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEREBY FINDS THAT STUDENTS ENROLLED IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION SHALL HAVE THE FOLLOWING RIGHTS:
(a) STUDENTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO COMPLETE THEIR ASSOCIATE OF ARTS AND ASSOCIATE OF SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAMS IN NO MORE THAN SIXTY CREDIT HOURS OR THEIR BACCALAUREATE PROGRAMS IN NO MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED TWENTY CREDIT HOURS UNLESS THERE ARE ADDITIONAL DEGREE REQUIREMENTS RECOGNIZED BY THE COMMISSION;
(b) A STUDENT CAN SIGN A TWO-YEAR OR FOUR-YEAR GRADUATION AGREEMENT THAT FORMALIZES A PLAN FOR THAT STUDENT TO OBTAIN A DEGREE IN TWO OR FOUR YEARS, UNLESS THERE ARE ADDITIONAL DEGREE REQUIREMENTS RECOGNIZED BY THE COMMISSION;
(c) STUDENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO CLEAR AND CONCISE INFORMATION CONCERNING WHICH COURSES MUST BE COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY TO COMPLETE THEIR DEGREES;
(d) STUDENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHICH COURSES ARE TRANSFERABLE AMONG THE STATE PUBLIC TWO-YEAR AND FOUR-YEAR INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION;
(e) STUDENTS, UPON COMPLETION OF CORE GENERAL EDUCATION COURSES, REGARDLESS OF THE DELIVERY METHOD, SHOULD HAVE THOSE COURSES SATISFY THE CORE COURSE REQUIREMENTS OF ALL COLORADO PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION;
(f) STUDENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW IF COURSES FROM ONE OR MORE PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS SATISFY THE STUDENTS' DEGREE REQUIREMENTS;
(g) A STUDENT'S CREDIT FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE CORE REQUIREMENTS AND CORE COURSES SHALL NOT EXPIRE FOR TEN YEARS FROM THE DATE OF INITIAL ENROLLMENT AND SHALL BE TRANSFERRABLE.