You asked whether Excel High School, based out of Plymouth, Minnesota, may be considered
an educational institution for purposes of awarding student benefits.
For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that Excel qualifies as an educational
The claimant, E~, is seeking child’s insurance benefits (CIB) due to his status as
a full-time student at Excel. The agency uses Form SSA-1372-BK as the primary means
for determining whether a child is a full-time student at a qualifying educational
institution. POMS RS 00205.735. The claimant submitted a SSA-1372-BK dated August 26, 2014, indicating that he was
scheduled to attend Excel full-time (23 hours per week) for the 2014-2015 academic
year; he also indicated that he expected to graduate in December 2014. The SSA 1372-BK
was certified by the Excel Registrar . The Excel Registrar indicated that the information
the claimant had provided on the SSA 1372-BK was correct, and that the school’s course
of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.
To qualify for student benefits, a claimant must be at least 18 years old, but under
age 19, and a full-time elementary or secondary school student at a qualifying educational
institution. See Section 202(d)(1)(B) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. §404.350(a)(5). In order
to qualify as an educational institution for the purposes of awarding student benefits,
the school must provide an education “as determined under the law of the State or
other jurisdiction in which it is located. 42 U.S.C. §402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also POMS
RS 00205.200(A). Under the POMS, it is assumed that public schools in the United States are educational
institutions, absent evidence to the contrary; a non-public school cannot be assumed
to be an educational institution. POMS RS
00205.250(B). It does not matter if the school is online, so long as the school meets state
law requirements. POMS RS 00205.295. An online school is “one that offers Internet-based courses to students.” POMS RS 00205.295(A).
The claimant must also show that he is a full-time elementary or secondary school
student in order to qualify for student benefits. The Act defines “full-time elementary
or secondary school student” as an individual who is in full-time attendance at an
elementary or secondary school. Section 202(d)(7)(a) of the Act; see also 20 C.F.R.
§404.367. A child attending an online school may be considered a full-time student
if: (1) the student meets the standards for full-time attendance as defined in POMS
RS 00205.300, and (2) the online school is consistent with the law of the state in which the online
school is located. POMS RS 00205.295(B). To satisfy the “full-time attendance” requirement, a student must meet both federal
and state standards. POMS RS 00205.300(A). To meet the federal standards, the claimant must be enrolled in a non-correspondence
course of at least 13 weeks’ duration and be scheduled for attendance at the rate
of at least 20 hours per week (with certain exceptions). 20 C.F.R. §404.367(b), (c);
POMS RS 00205.300(C). The state requirements are met if the school considers the claimant to be a full-time
student based on the school’s standards and practices for day students. POMS RS 00205.300(B).
Excel Qualifies as an Educational Institution
The claimant resides in the State of Illinois. However, because Excel is a school
based in Minnesota, it is necessary to examine Minnesota law to determine whether
Excel is an educational institution. Under Minnesota law, a “secondary school” means
any school with building, equipment, courses of study, class schedules, enrollment
of pupils ordinarily in grades 7 through 12 or any portion thereof, and staff meeting
the standards established by the commissioner of education. M.S.A. §120A.05(13).
Excel is a nonpublic (private), online school based in Minnesota.  Minnesota defines nonpublic school as any school, church, or religious organization,
or home school where a student can fulfill compulsory education requirements, that
is located in the state, and that meets the requirements of Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. MSA § 123B.41, Subd. 9. Under Minnesota compulsory education requirements,
schools must provide instruction in basic communications skills (including reading,
writing, literature, and fine arts); mathematics and science; social studies (including
history, geography, and government); and health and physical education. M.S.A. §120A.22(9).
Excel’s required curriculum appears to meet Minnesota State standards, with instruction
in all required fields. M.S.A. §120A.22(9).  Further, there is no indication that Excel does not meet the requirements of Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Teacher certification for nonpublic schools in the State of Minnesota is optional.
However, nonpublic teachers in the State of Minnesota must do one of the following:
hold a valid Minnesota teaching license for the grade level; be directly supervised
by an individual with a valid Minnesota teaching license; successfully complete a
teacher competency examination; provide instruction in a school that is accredited
by an accrediting agency recognized by the Nonpublic Education Council; or hold a
baccalaureate degree.  The Excel website indicates that all online high school courses are taught by state-licensed
instructors that hold at least a Master or Ph.D. degree, with a teaching license relative
to each instructor’s area of expertise. Accreditation for nonpublic schools in Minnesota is likewise optional. However, Excel
is directly accredited by AdvancEd, an accrediting organization recognized by the
Minnesota Nonpublic Education Council.  As a result, Excel is eligible for reduced reporting requirements under Minnesota
Department of Education policy. Though Excel’s eligibility for reduced reporting requirements
is not dispositive, accreditation by a recognized entity lends credence to Excel’s
status as an educational institution. Further, the Excel Director confirmed that Excel
complies with Minnesota’s attendance reporting requirements for students under the
age of 18, as is required by M.S.A. §120A.24(1).
Unlike public schools, the State of Minnesota does not regulate the length of the
school year for students attending nonpublic schools. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Excel qualifies as an educational institution
for purposes of awarding Child Insurance Benefits. Though nonpublic schools are not
closely regulated by the Minnesota Department of Education, information provided by
Excel personnel, Excel’s website, and the Minnesota Department of Education supports
that Excel operates in compliance with Minnesota law. Accordingly, we find that it
meets the requirements of an educational institution for purposes of awarding student
The Claimant Appears to Meet Federal and State Attendance Standards
In addition to attending a qualifying educational institution, a student must meet
both federal and state attendance requirements to qualify for student benefits. POMS
RS 00205.300(A). As stated above, to meet the federal standards, the claimant must be enrolled
in a non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks’ duration and be scheduled for
attendance at the rate of at least 20 hours per week (with certain exceptions). See
20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). On the SSA-1372-BK dated August 26, 2014, the claimant asserted that he was
scheduled to attend Excel a total of 23 hours per week. The Excel Registrar certified
that the claimant’s statements were correct, and that the school’s course of study
was at least 13 weeks in duration. Based on this information, the claimant appears
to meet the federal requirements, as he was scheduled to attend more than 20 hours
per week for at least 13 weeks.
However, in order to qualify for student benefits, the claimant must also meet state
attendance requirements. State attendance requirements are met if a student is considered
full-time based on the school’s standards and practices. POMS RS 000205.300(B). Excel’s
website advises that students are considered full-time if they take 4-6 courses per
semester, spending 4-5 hours per day, five days per week, in coursework. In the SSA-1372-BK,
the claimant asserted that he was scheduled to attend 23 hours of school per week,
which falls within Excel’s expectation for full-time attendance. The claimant therefore
appears to meet the state attendance requirements as well.
For the reasons discussed above, we find that Excel is an educational institution.
In addition, it appears that the claimant was scheduled to meet both federal and state
Acting Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel