Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who May File a Complaint Against a Private Postsecondary School?
A complaint may be filed by any person who has good reason to believe that a school is not in compliance with Bureau standards and requirements. This includes, and is not limited to, current and former students of the school, prospective students, other schools, governmental agencies, and members of the public.
2. Must a School have Specific Procedures Established for Responding to Complaints?
The Bureau recommends all applicant and approved schools to establish a complaint policy and process for the purpose of responding to and addressing complaints filed against the school. The policy and process should establish how the school will respond and address complaints filed by a student directly with the Bureau or internally with the school and also how the school will respond and address complaints filed against the school with the Bureau.
3. What Types of Complaints does the Bureau Accept?
All complaints filed with the Bureau are accepted. Each complaint is reviewed to determine if the allegations reasonably suggest that a school may not be in compliance with applicable laws. If the allegations are non-jurisdictional, the Bureau will refer the complaint and/or the complainant to the appropriate entity with jurisdiction over the subject matter.
4. Will the Bureau Inform the School that a Complaint was Filed Against It?
If a complaint sets forth allegations that reasonably suggest that a school may not be in compliance with applicable laws, the Bureau will inform the school that a complaint was filed against it, along with the suggested allegations.
If a complaint sets forth allegations that are non-jurisdictional, the Bureau will not inform the school of the complaint.
5. How Does the Bureau Process a Complaint?
a. The Bureau conducts an initial review of the complaint to determine whether it sets forth information or allegations that reasonably suggest a school may not be in compliance with applicable laws.
i. Where issues of compliance with applicable laws are not central to the complaint, the Bureau will refer the complaint and/or the complainant to the appropriate federal or state agency or private entity with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint.
ii. Complaints that seek a resolution with a school (e.g., lack of job placement, lack of training, untimely refund, etc.) are typically handled through a mediation process. Through a third-party mediator, the allegations in the complaint are addressed with both the complainant and the school, working toward a resolution that is mutually acceptable to both parties.
iii. Complaints that do not set forth information or allegations that reasonably suggest a school may be out of compliance with applicable laws are closed.
b. If additional information or clarification from the complainant is required, the Bureau will send a request to the complainant.
c. If the Bureau determines the allegations and/or information reasonably suggest a school may not be in compliance with applicable laws, the Bureau will conduct an investigation into the validity of the allegations. The various methods of investigation include:
i. Desk Investigation: The Bureau will notify the school that a complaint was filed against it. The notice will summarize the allegations, identify the applicable laws that were allegedly violated, and advise the school of the deadline for a response.
ii. Onsite Investigation: The Bureau will conduct an onsite investigation to gather relevant information and documentation. The onsite investigation may be announced or unannounced. For announced onsite investigations, the school will be provided prior notice that a complaint was filed, including a summary of the allegations and applicable laws that were allegedly violated. For unannounced onsite investigations, the school will be informed of the allegations and alleged violations at the time of the onsite visit.
iii. Undercover Investigation: In some cases, the Bureau may determine the alleged violations of applicable laws warrant unannounced undercover investigation. The school is not notified prior to or during the investigation.
d. The Bureau may, at any time, request additional information from the complainant or the school that is deemed to be necessary for the resolution of the complaint. A reasonable time limit for replying to such requests may be imposed.
6. What Types of Actions does the Bureau Take on a Complaint?
a. If at the conclusion of investigation the Bureau determines the information and evidence do not establish noncompliance with applicable laws, the Bureau will consider the matter of the complaint closed.
b. If at the conclusion of investigation the Bureau determines the information and evidence establish noncompliance with applicable laws, the Bureau can take appropriate administrative enforcement action pursuant to California Education Code, title 3, Division 10, Part 59, Chapter 8, Article 18. Enforcement action may include, but is not limited to, citation & fine, citation & fine with order of abatement, suspension, probation, and revocation of an institution's approval to operate.
c. The allegations raised by a complainant that have been closed by the Bureau will not be subject to further review or reconsideration unless subsequent complaints against the school raise new issues or suggest a pattern of significant noncompliance with applicable laws not evident from the consideration of the previously closed complaint.
7. Are Complaints Posted to the Bureau Website?
Complaints are not posted on the Bureau Website. If the Bureau takes administrative enforcement action against a school, the enforcement action (e.g., citation & fine, order of abatement, accusation) will be posted to the Bureau's website.
8. Where Can I Find Information on the Laws Governing Private Postsecondary Schools?
The California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 and corresponding regulations are posted on the Bureau's website at www.bppe.ca.gov/lawsregs/index.shtml.