Misconduct Charges at Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University is a for-profit online university based in Alabama. Columbia Southern enrolls about 15,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 more graduate students in bachelor's, master's, and doctorate programs from business and criminal justice to psychology, information technology, and other technical fields.

Like other for-profit institutions of higher education, Columbia Southern University advertises and emphasizes the affordable, flexible, and accessible nature of its program. Those commitments are all good. Students who don't have the time, means, or flexibility to attend more-traditional public or private-nonprofit schools may be able to attend Columbia Southern University or another for-profit online institution.

Low graduation rates, though, are a significant downside of for-profit schools with an access mission. The schools may not always be to blame. Whether a student graduates or not, access schools give students a chance at graduation, which in part justifies their access mission. But accrediting agencies require that all schools, including for-profit online access schools like Columbia Southern, provide adequate educational support and resources to give students a real chance at graduation.

No for-profit school should be sustaining enrollment to line investors' pockets by using sharp practices, like those methods indicated in this report on the bankruptcy of one national for-profit-college chain. The report shows the bankrupt for-profit having to repay the federal government millions for illicitly gained federal loan funds. Some schools unfairly dismiss students for failing to progress or for trumped-up misconduct charges while keeping the loans funding the dismissed student's tuition.

Your experience at Columbia Southern University may have been a good one. But don't let Columbia Southern University ignore its own policies and procedures while treating you unfairly in a dismissal proceeding. National academic-misconduct attorney and advisor Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm wants to educate you about your rights as a student at Columbia Southern University.

Misconduct Policies at Columbia Southern University

Academic misconduct within higher education comes in many different forms and with a long history. Read more here for additional context about college academic misconduct. Student misconduct is a substantial and legitimate concern throughout higher education, including at for-profit institutions like Columbia Southern University, even if institutions often do not follow their own policies. Columbia Southern University's student handbook contains the policies that the university commits to following when regulating student conduct, including academic-integrity, academic-progress, and Title IX policies, and a student-conduct code. Consider here what each policy prohibits and defines as sanctionable misconduct.

Academic Integrity. Columbia Southern University's academic-integrity policy in its student handbook broadly prohibits cheating, plagiarism, and self-plagiarism. The handbook defines cheating as using or attempting to use unauthorized materials … to fulfill scholastic requirements with the intent to defraud, giving as examples contract cheating, submission of another student's work, purchasing assignments, collusion, or submitting an assignment with the intent to defraud. The handbook defines plagiarism as representing the words, ideas, or works of an author without giving proper attribution to source. And the handbook defines self-plagiarism as submitting previously submitted course work without prior professor approval. Possible sanctions for violating the academic-integrity policy include point deduction, assignment failure, course failure, probation, university dismissal, or degree revocation.

Academic Progress. Columbia Southern University's student handbook includes a separate academic-progress policy that requires students to remain in good standing with at least a 2.0 grade-point average in undergraduate programs and 3.0 grade-point average in graduate programs. The school places on probation students whose grade point falls below the minimum. If the student does not raise the grade point to the minimum within the next twelve course credits, then the school suspends the student for progressively longer periods before each reinstatement that does not result in the student earning the grade-point minimum. Columbia Southern reserves the right to dismiss a student based on demonstrated academic performance failing to show satisfactory progress.

Student Conduct Code. Columbia Southern University's student handbook includes a separate student code of conduct that prohibits students from the following actions, sanctions for which can include warning, probation, loss of academic credit, suspension, or conduct dismissal:

  • disrespect of university personnel;
  • inappropriate communication such as harassment, prejudice, stalking, offensive language, threats, abuse, insults, or humiliation made within the university environment;
  • demeaning comments including but not limited to those regarding an individual's religion, race, age, sexual orientation, or making unwanted sexual advances or intimidations;
  • breaches of privacy, hacking passwords or systems, distribution or replication of copyrighted materials, unauthorized distribution of instructional materials, or use of illegal or unlicensed software;
  • intentional breach of university policy or procedures;
  • reproduction of university materials to include course content, assessments, or other materials deemed to be the property of the university;
  • using or purchasing work that is not the student's own;
  • disruptive behavior that hinders or interferes with the educational process;
  • harassment or intimidati