Want to Lodge a College Complaint? Here’s Who to Call on Campus

There’s a lot of scary information being thrown around regarding colleges reopening this fall. And a lot of students and parents want to know who they can talk to to get answers. Dozens of different offices take care of different parts of the college experience. So who should you call if you haven’t gotten an answer or want to file a college complaint?

Freshmen: Stop Calling Admissions

If you’ve been accepted and deposited, you are now an official student. As such, admissions is not your go-to for information any longer.

I know that’s a hard thing to understand, since you’ve been dealing with them for months. But they have admitted you, and your information has been passed off into The System. And they’ve moved on from you to the next class. So give their phone lines and email a rest now.

So who can you call if you’re confused as to what’s going on? Do you have a specific question, need to complain, or need help for whatever circumstance you find yourself in? Who can you reach out to who can actually help you?

The Summer of Definitely Not Nothing

All universities have roughly the same departments, but with different names. Finding out who can actually help you might take a few attempts. Additionally, there’s should be a good amount of overlap between offices, which is a good thing overall. It keeps offices accountable to each other, and provides easy information transfer about students and their needs.

But during the COVID-19 summer, or the “summer of nothing” as some are calling it, these offices are definitely not doing nothing. They’re all scrambling to make decisions and then communicate those decisions to students and families.

Please do understand: I am not saying that every college complaint is viable, especially during these times. If all of your classes are now showing as online-only for the semester, please understand that that decision was made for everyone’s safety, including yours. There’s little you can do about that. You can ask for clarification and changes to be made, if possible.

RELATED: Empty Nest During A Pandemic: Facing Your Fear and Grief in 2020

Are you an out-of-state tuition paying student and all your classes are online? That’s a very weird situation and it’s happening right now. And colleges don’t have a great answer for you. At least, they don’t have an answer you’ll like.

Brick-and-mortar universities are not “set up” to charge you “online only” tuition. Tuition rates are still based on your permanent residence address, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. That comes down to how colleges budget those in-state vs out-of-state tuition dollars. Universities love those out-of-state dollars and they’re not going to give them up easily. The same goes for private schools.

Online classes don’t mean reduced tuition. Lodging a college complaint about tuition rates isn’t going to result in a change for you. Sorry. If you’re hoping to get that victory, you’d be better off switching schools, looking into some community college classes, or taking a gap year.

But you might have some specific question or personal situation. If you need to explain and get help, one of these areas might suit you best.

Offices to Contact, or Who Does What

First Stop: Your college or university should have a regularly-updated COVID-19 webpage up by now. That page is going to give you all of the specific information on the reopening plans as they know it, right now. Of course, it’s not set in stone. Consistent updating on their part and yours is crucial right now so no one misses anything.

It should also, hopefully, give you a definitive list of resources you can contact to learn more about the plans or ask personal and/or individual questions. If not, here are some other areas to contact regarding your questions or complaints.

Advisers: Your adviser is like your gateway point to all things. And that’s a huge job, so remember to thank them! If you’re a freshman student who hasn’t been assigned your adviser yet, contact your major department or “undecided” counseling office. You probably have an adviser already.

Student Affairs/Dean of Students: Second to advisers, your student affairs or the office of student services will be a huge help. They take care of everything at the intersection of academic and individual growth and development. They’re more than likely the ones communicating all of the COVID-19 related information right now.

Housing: Have a question about your dorm room, roommate, or how many students will be allowed into your hall at any given time? Housing or residential services is your answer. They might, also, deal with dining services, depending on the school. So if you have a question about dining hall capacities, check them out.

RELATED: Sending Your Freshman to College During Coronavirus: One Professor’s Opinion

Registrar: The registrar’s office takes care of all things schedule-wise: registration requests, class schedules, and class lists and grades. If you’re unhappy with the classes you have been placed in, they can answer your questions. If you have decided to withdraw, they’d do the paperwork, but only after you’ve contacted your adviser or department.

College Deans or Department Heads: Have a question specifically about your major, or what you’ve been asked to study and when? Contact your college directly. They will probably refer you to your adviser though!

Counseling Center: If you have health issues or questions, call the counseling or health center. They can also help with mental health support, a crucial aspect during these difficult times.

Provost: The university provost, or the provosts for the different colleges, act as the final “top people” for the internal university. They report directly to the president’s office. They’re overseeing all of these other departments.

Office of the President or Chancellor: The president of the university isn’t as directly involved with students’ concerns as you’d like to believe. They do, of course, listen and respond to students, but their main focus is on state relationships, boards, and financials. They are the Big Picture people, and sometimes that’s acting as the PR spokesperson.

But do you want to go Right To the Top? If they’re active on social media, you can probably reach them faster via that route than by calling their office directly. But they’re going to refer you to one of these other offices.

Remember to Breathe

Before you lodge that college complaint, remember that these departments and offices are there to help you, and they are people too. The people answering those phones and emails are also worried about their health and their families. And importantly, they aren’t customer service “managers.” Be respectful, kind, and calm.

Also, remember nothing is permanent right now. Colleges usually have quiet summers. This summer is anything but quiet. And as the infection rates rise and fall across the country, plans will change, and change quickly. Stay calm and collected. Maybe it isn’t quite the time to be lodging a college complaint. Help them, help you.


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