TN 64 (05-18)

PR 07905.036 North Carolina

A. PR 18-079 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment in North Carolina Connections Academy

Date: April 23, 2018

1. Syllabus

“Connections” is an educational institution that operates as an online charter school in compliance with North Carolina law. 

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether North Carolina Connections Academy (Connections), an entity located in North Carolina, is an educational institution for determining if A~ (Claimant), a North Carolina resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time elementary or secondary school student. You also asked whether Claimant is in full-time attendance based on his instruction through Connections for determining his eligibility for CIB as a full-time elementary school or secondary school student.1

OPINION

Connections operates as an online charter school in compliance with North Carolina law and, therefore, Connections is an educational institution for determining Claimant’s eligibility for CIB as a full-time elementary or secondary school student. Claimant also meets state and Federal standards for full-time attendance for determining his eligibility for CIB as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

BACKGROUND

Claimant has filed a claim for reinstatement of CIB on the earnings record of S~, the number holder since reaching age eighteen. Claimant completed a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance form, Form SSA-1372-BK, in which he indicated he lives in C~, North Carolina, and attends Connections twenty to thirty hours per week. Claimant has attended Connections since January 19, 2018. Claimant indicated that Connections is an online public high school and that he had previously attended a different school. Claimant reported that he expected to graduate in May 2021, he was not married or disabled, he did not expect to earn more than $16,921.00 in 2017, and he was not being paid to attend school.

The manager of counseling at Connections, K~, completed and signed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372-BK and confirmed that the information Claimant provided was correct and indicated that Connections had a course of study of at least thirteen weeks and the school operated on a quarterly/semester basis with no reenrollment required. Claimant submitted a course list and his current grades in each course. He also included an attendance report for eight days in late January and early February 2018, showing he generally attended class five or six hours each day.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction lists Connections as a public, virtual charter school. See Pub. Schs. of N.C., Educ. Directory & Demographical Info. Exchange, http://apps.schools.nc.gov/ords/f?p=125:1100 (last visited Apr. 16, 2018). North Carolina considers authorized charter schools to be public schools. See Pub. Schs. of N.C., Off. of Charter Schs., http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/charterschools/ (last visited Apr. 16, 2018).

Connections’ website explains it is a virtual public school for students in grades K-12 and is accredited by AdvancED. See N.C. Connections Acad., Our School, https://www.connectionsacademy.com/north-carolina-virtual-school/about (last visited Apr. 16, 2018).

Connections’ website further states that the North Carolina State Board of Education unanimously approved Connections as a virtual charter school in February 2015. See id.

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who is entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits or who dies fully or currently insured, a claimant who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2018);2 Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001.A. A claimant may qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student,” if he attends an educational institution, i.e., a school that provides elementary or secondary education (twelfth grade or below) according to the law of the state or jurisdiction where the school is located. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (d)(7)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the agency assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.250.B.1.

A claimant also must attend school full time to qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.300.A. A claimant is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending an educational institution and meets both state and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)- (c); POMS RS 00205.300.A. Similarly, a claimant attending an on-line school is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending an on-line school consistent with the law of the state in which the on-line school is located (i.e., an educational institution), and meets both state and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See POMS RS 00205.295.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A. A claimant meets the state standards if a qualifying educational institution considers the beneficiary to be a full-time student based on the institution’s standards and practices. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300.B.; POMS RS 00205.350.C.1. A claimant meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study that is at least thirteen weeks. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C.

Educational Institution under North Carolina Law

Because Connections is located in North Carolina, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether Connections is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200.A. North Carolina established charter schools to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and students to establish and maintain schools that operate independently of existing schools. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-218(a) (West 2018). North Carolina code further clarifies that “[a] charter school that is approved by the State shall be a public school within the local school administrative unit in which it is located. All charter schools shall be accountable to the State Board for ensuring compliance with applicable laws and the provisions of their charters.” N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-218.15(a) (West 2018). Thus, charter schools that are approved by the State are public schools. See id,; Pub. Schs. of N.C., Off. of Charter Schs., http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/charterschools/ (last visited Apr. 16, 2018). The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction lists Connections as a public, virtual charter school. See Pub. Schs. of N.C., Educ. Directory & Demographical Info. Exchange:

http://apps.schools.nc.gov/ords/f?p=125:1100 (last visited Apr. 16, 2018)

Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the agency assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.250.B.1. Because North Carolina considers Connections to be a public high school, and there is no evidence to the contrary, Connections is an educational institution.

Full-Time Attendance

The evidence also shows that Claimant’s study through Connections satisfied the requirements for full-time attendance. Claimant met the state standards for full-time attendance because K~, the manager of counseling for Connections, confirmed Claimant’s statement that he was in full-time attendance at Connections. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300.B; POMS RS 00205.350.C.1. Claimant met the Federal standards for full-time attendance because he stated, and K~ confirmed, that he was scheduled to attend Connections for twenty to thirty hours per week; K~ indicated that Connections’ course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration; and nothing in the information available indicates that Claimant takes correspondence courses. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. Thus, the information provided indicates Claimant meets the state and Federal full-time attendance standards.

CONCLUSION

Connections is an educational institution under North Carolina law and Claimant is in full-time attendance based on his instruction through Connections for determining his eligibility for CIB as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

B. PR 15-095 Status of SOAR Academy as an Educational Institution

Date: March 11, 2015

1. Syllabus

North Carolina law pertinent to accreditation of non-public schools has changed, and this opinion modifies PR 10-072 (3/12/2010) in PR 08205.036. Effective in 2013, one of the characteristics of non-public schools in North Carolina changed. Instead of requiring accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, legislation amended the requirement to accreditation by a national or regional accrediting agency. 

The Academy at SOAR, located in Balsam, North Carolina, provides secondary education in accordance with North Carolina law. It is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. Opinion

Question Presented

You asked us whether the Academy at SOAR (SOAR Academy) is an educational institution.

Short Answer

Yes, because the SOAR Academy meets the requirements of a qualifying non-public school under North Carolina law, it is an educational institution for purposes of the Social Security Act (Act). We look to North Carolina law because the SOAR Academy is located there.

Background

According to the information provided, A~ receives child’s insurance benefits (CIB) on the earnings record of S~. A~ seeks CIB beyond the age of 18 as a full-time student. She provided a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance, in which she indicated she attends the SOAR Academy 35 hours per week. A~ indicated that the SOAR Academy is a high school located in Balsam, North Carolina, and she expects to graduate in May 2015. She also stated that she is not married or disabled; did not expect to earn more than $15,480 in 2014; and was not being paid to attend school.

The Director of the SOAR Academy completed the Certification by a School Official. He indicated that the information A~ provided about the school was accurate, apparently including the fact she attended school 35 hours per week; started attending the school in September 2014; and was expected to graduate May XX, 2015. The Director also indicated the SOAR Academy’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

Discussion

A child’s entitlement to CIB ordinarily ends when she turns 18 years old. See Act § 202(d)(6); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367(a). However, the child may continue to receive CIB until she turns 19 years old so long as she is a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(6); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367(a). We look to the law of the State or jurisdiction where the school is located to determine if the school is an elementary or secondary school within the meaning of the Act. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200(A).

Here, although A~ is a resident of Wyoming, the SOAR Academy is located in North Carolina.3 Therefore, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether the SOAR Academy is an educational institution.4 See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.200(B). The state of North Carolina recognizes certain non-public schools as qualifying non-public schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-555 (West 2013).5 Attendance at a qualified non-public school satisfies the requirements of compulsory school education under North Carolina law so long as the school meets certain requirements. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-556 to -558; see N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-378 (North Carolina’s compulsory education law); see also Delconte v. State, 329 S.E.2d 636, 640 (N.C. 1985).

Qualified non-public schools have one or more of the following characteristics: (1) the school is accredited by the State Board of Education; (2) the school is accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency; (3) the school is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools; and/or (4) the school receives no funding from the State of North Carolina. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-555; see also POMS PR 08205.036.6 North Carolina law also requires that qualifying non-public schools comply with certain attendance, health, safety, and minimum testing requirements, see N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 115C-556 to -558. For instance, each school must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each pupil enrolled and regularly attending classes. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-556. The school must operate on a regular schedule during at least nine calendar months of the year, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations. See id. The school must annually administer a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent test measuring achievement in certain academic areas to all enrolled students in grades three, six, nine, and eleven. See N.C. Gen Stat. § 115C-557.

Here, the SOAR Academy is accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency. See Press Release, Academy at SOAR, The Academy at SOAR Earns SACS CASI Accreditation (Mar. 5, 2014), available at http://soarnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SACS-CASI-Press-Release.pdf. Additionally, based on information supplied by A~ and the SOAR Academy, the school operates on a regular schedule during at least nine calendar months of the year (see SSA-1372 (noting that school is 35 hours per week running from September 2014 to May 2015, or nine calendar months)). And while neither A~ nor the SOAR Academy provided information about whether the school keeps attendance or immunization records or administers standardized tests, the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education lists the SOAR Academy in its Directory of Non-Public Schools. See 2014 North Carolina Directory of Non-Public Schools 47 (noting for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year available, SOAR Academy is accredited by SA, or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), available at http://www.ncdnpe.org/documents/13-14-CS-Directory.pdf. The directory notes that the schools listed in it were “operating legally.” Id. at 1. Given this—and the fact that the Division recognizes that non-public schools must keep attendance and immunization records and administer standardized tests, see Division of Non-Public Education, State of North Carolina Private K-12 School Requirements, http://www.ncdnpe.org/hhh104.aspx—we believe that the SOAR Academy meets all of the requirements of North Carolina law to be a private elementary/secondary school.

Accordingly, the SOAR Academy is a secondary school under the laws of North Carolina and, thus, qualifies as a secondary school under the Act.

Conclusion

The SOAR Academy is located in North Carolina. Therefore, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether it is an educational institution for purposes of CIB. Based on the information provided by Claimant and the SOAR Academy, in addition to information available from the State of North Carolina, the SOAR Academy is an educational institution under North Carolina law.


Footnotes:

[1]

. Although the question about full time attendance was not included in the original opinion request, you confirmed you did want us to address whether the claimant is in full time attendance during a telephone conversation on April 16, 2018.

[2]

. All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2018 edition.

[3]

. . As you note, there are two addresses for the SOAR Academy, one in North Carolina and another in Wyoming. However, both A~ and the SOAR Academy Director indicated that the school was in Balsam, North Carolina. This is consistent with the school’s website, which indicates that the SOAR Academy is a boarding school in North Carolina but sometimes holds “camps” in Wyoming.

[4]

. . Although the Act and regulations refer to “elementary or secondary school,” the POMS refers to Educational Institutions. We will refer to them interchangeably.

[5]

. . All subsequent cites to the N.C. Gen. Stat. are to West’s 2013 edition.

[6]

. . POMS PR 08205.036 indicates that a school must be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But in 2013, the North Carolina legislature amended § 115C-555 to require only that a school be accredited by “a national or regional accrediting agency.” See N.C. Sess. Laws 2013-360, § 8.29(c), available at http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/PDF/2013-2014/SL2013-360.pdf.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905036
PR 07905.036 - North Carolina - 05/22/2018
Batch run: 05/22/2018
Rev:05/22/2018