Student Complaint Procedures and Disclosures: State Authorization and Exemption

The Spiritual Care Association University of Theology and Spirituality (SAC-UTS) is a religiously exempt institution of graduate education offering pastoral and theological degrees and operating in the State of Washington.  All degree-granting institutions operating in Washington must receive authorization from the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), unless they are found to be exempt from the requirements of the Degree-Granting Institutions Act of 1986.

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) has reviewed SCA-UTS’s degree programs and determined that the University qualifies for exemption from state degree authorization because of the strictly religious nature of SCA-UTS’s degree programs.  On December 29, 2016, the SCA University of Theology and Spirituality received exemption approval by the State of Washington. The Washington Student Achievement Council reviewed the materials provided by UTS and determined that the degree programs listed meet the requirements of Chapter RCW 28B.85.040(2)(c) and WAC 250-61-060(7) of the Washington Degree-Granting Institutions Act and thus has granted SCA-UTS a religious exemption.

However, students are still protected under consumer disclosure laws related to online education under the terms of Washington State’s participation in NC-SARA (please see below).

 

Student Complaint Procedures

Student complainants enrolled in SCA-UTS degree and certificate programs should first follow the University’s appeal and complaint procedures as described in the Catalog and Student Handbook in order to have their concerns addressed.

If a complaint is still not resolved after exhausting the University’s procedures, a student in a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) state may file a complaint with the Washington State Portal Entity for complaints related to online courses, activities, and operations, as outlined in the SARA student complaint process.

 

 

Student Complaints and SARA

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a national council (the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements or NC-SARA) and administered by four regional education compacts.

 

The members of SARA are states and not institutions or students. Therefore, a state “joins” or becomes a “member” of SARA while a college or university “operates under” or “participates in” SARA.

SARA consumer protection provisions require the institution’s home state, through its SARA State Portal Entity, to investigate and resolve allegations of dishonest or fraudulent activity by the state’s SARA-participating institutions, including the provision of false or misleading information.

 

A student has the right to lodge a complaint or grievance. Student complaints relating to consumer protection laws offered under the terms and conditions of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), must first be filed with the institution to seek resolution.

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) has been designated the State Portal Agency (SPA) for Washington. The SPA is the lead agency in a state and is responsible for processing applications for SARA participation from schools based in the state. In order to initiate a complaint with the SARA State Portal Agency, complainants should contact the WSAC SPA and begin the process here:

 

https://wsac.wa.gov/student-complaints

 

Washington State’s Portal Entity Contact information is as follows:

Sam Loftin, J.D.

Director of Consumer Protection

(360) 753-7866

saml@wsac.wa.gov

Washington Student Achievement Council

917 Lakeridge Way SW

Olympia, WA 98502

 

Students seeking guidance on the SARA student complaint process should consult NC-SARA’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for information on the procedure and its corresponding NC-SARA policies:

 

https://nc-sara.org/sites/default/files/files/2020-10/Student_Complaints_FAQ_10.26.20.pdf

 

Student Privacy Complaints and FERPA

SCA-UTS voluntarily adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as a condition of its pending accreditation. Complaints regarding a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) cannot be processed through the WSAC SPA portal. FERPA complaints should be submitted directly to the U.S. Department of Education. You may request a complaint form by calling 202-260-3887 or by visiting the USDE’s FERPA Complaints page here:

 

https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/file-a-complaint

 

Ordination and Endorsement

The degree and certificate programs offered by SCA-UTS are designed to meet evidence-based requirements for professional chaplaincy and spiritual care. Therefore, it is not the stated mission of the University to prepare students for ordination in any specific denomination or faith tradition. Faith group endorsement is not an evidence-based indicator of a person's competency as a professional chaplain.

 

Faith group endorsement is an outgrowth of a relationship between chaplains and their spiritual communities. SCA-UTS recognizes that if a chaplain in a specific professional setting is required to have faith group endorsement, then SCA-UTS respects that the chaplain will need to obtain such endorsement separate from SCA's credentialing and certification processes.

Denominational or other faith group or tradition-specific coursework not offered in the SCA-UTS curriculum may be completed elsewhere before or during a student’s studies and transferred in as elective credits, but only with prior approval from SCA-UTS. Students are encouraged to research their denominational, faith group or religious tradition’s requirements for chaplaincy endorsement during their admissions process to ensure that their coursework and field experiences align with those requirements.

SCA-UTS is not responsible for ensuring that its evidence-based curriculum is aligned with a student’s requirements for ordination or endorsement from their originating or elective religious tradition and therefore cannot entertain complaints related to declinations of ordination qualification or faith group endorsement.

 

These are matters which should be discussed between the student and the authorized representative of their originating or elective religious tradition as it affects chaplaincy qualification and endorsement. SCA-UTS assumes no responsibility for a faith group’s refusal to endorse or ordain a graduate from any SCA-UTS degree or certificate program.