TN 74 (01-20)

PR 07905.036 North Carolina

A. PR 19-206 Eligibility for Child's Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment in New Hope Christian Academy - North Carolina

Date: November 26, 2019

1. Syllabus

New Hope Christian Academy, an entity located in North Carolina, is not an educational institution under North Carolina law.

2. Question

Whether New Hope Christian Academy (NHCA), an entity located in North Carolina, is an educational institution and whether D~ (Claimant) in full-time attendance, for determining whether Claimant, a North Carolina resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time elementary or secondary school student on the earnings record of C~, the deceased number holder (NH).

3. Opinion

Based on the information provided, NHCA is not an educational institution under North Carolina law. Therefore, Claimant is not entitled to CIB because he is not a full-time student attending an educational institution.

4. Background

According to the information provided, Claimant received CIB on NH’s earnings record, but the agency terminated Claimant’s entitlement to CIB when he turned age eighteen. Claimant has requested continuation of CIB as a full-time student.

Claimant completed a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance form, Form SSA-1372-BK, in which he indicated that he was in full-time attendance at NHCA. Claimant indicated NHCA is located in Thomasville, North Carolina, and he described NHCA as an online private school. Claimant reported he attended NHCA at least twenty hours a week. Claimant expects to graduate from high school in May 2021. He also reported that he was not married or disabled, he did not expect to earn any money in 2019, and he was not being paid to attend school. M~, an administrative assistant at NHCA, completed and signed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372-BK confirming the information Claimant provided about his current attendance. M~ indicated that NHCA’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration and that NHCA operated on a yearly basis online.

In a letter dated July xx, 2019 from M~, she stated that NHCA is fully accredited through the National Independent Private School Association (NIPSA) and Middle States Association – Commission on Elementary & Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS). According to M~, NHCA online program students work at home at their own pace. NHCA is “able to see when the student is logged in, what they did while they were logged in, and how much time was spent.” Finally, M~ stated online program students may “come to campus to receive help or tutoring when needed and occasionally for proctored testing.”

NHCA’s website states that it is a private school located in Thomasville, North Carolina that offers students a “Christian-based education” from Kindergarten through 12th grade. See NHCA, Welcome to NHCA!, http://newhopechristianacademyinc.com/ (last visited Nov. xx, 2019). NHCA was founded as a home school, but now has a “brick and mortar” school and an online academy. See NHCA, Our Purpose and Mission Statement, http://newhopechristianacademyinc.com/about-us/ (last visited Nov. xx, 2019); see also NHCA, NHCA Admissions Information, http://newhopechristianacademyinc.com/admissions/ (last visited Nov. xx, 2019) (providing for online class enrollment). M~ is NHCA’s office manager. See NHCA, Our Purpose and Mission Statement. The website indicates that NHCA is “[f]ully licensed” by the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education, fully accredited through MSA-CESS, a member of NIPSA, and fully accredited by the National Council for Private School Accreditation. Id.

5. Discussion

a. Federal Law

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual 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), (d)(7)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2019);[1] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001A. A claimant may qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student,” if he or she 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 00205.001A; POMS RS 00205.200A.

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 00205.001A; POMS RS 00205.300A. A claimant attends full time 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 00205.300A. Similarly, a claimant attending an online school may be considered a full-time student if the online school is consistent with the law of the state in which the online school is located (i.e., an educational institution), and meets both state and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See POMS RS 00205.295B; POMS RS 00205.300A. A claimant meets the state standards for full-time attendance if a qualifying educational institution considers the individual 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 00205.300B; POMS RS 00205.350C.1. A claimant meets the Federal standards for full-time attendance if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study lasting at least thirteen weeks. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300C.

Claimant and NHCA’s website indicate that NHCA is located in North Carolina. Therefore, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether NHCA 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 00205.001A; POMS RS 00205.200A.

b. State Law Related to Educational Institutions

North Carolina law recognizes private church schools and schools of religious charter that meet certain requirements. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-547 through -554 (West 2019);[2] see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-378(a) (establishing compulsory school attendance for children between ages seven and sixteen); Delconte v. State, 329 S.E.2d 636, 640 (N.C. 1985) (concluding attendance at a private church school or school of religious charter is one of four ways in which a child may comply with the State’s school attendance laws). Attendance at a private church school or school of religious charter that complies with applicable law satisfies the requirements of compulsory school attendance so long as the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548; N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private Grade K-12 School Requirements, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/private-school/private-schools-k-12-requirements (last visited Nov. xx, 2019). Private church schools and schools of religious charter must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each pupil enrolled and regularly attending classes. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548; N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private Grade K-12 School Requirements. Private church schools and schools of religious charter are subject to reasonable fire, health, and safety inspections by State, county, and municipal authorities as required by law. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548; N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private Grade K-12 School Requirements.

Private church schools and schools of religious charter also must annually administer a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement to all students enrolled or regularly attending grades three, six, and nine; make and maintain records of the results achieved by its students; and make such records available for annual inspection by the State. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-549. Similarly, private church schools and schools of religious charter must administer a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measure to all students enrolled and regularly attending the eleventh grade, establish a minimum score that must be attained by a student on the selected test in order to be graduated from high school, and make all such records available for annual inspection by the State. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-550; see also N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Nationally Standardized Testing Requirement, Conventional Private Schools, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/private-school-information/nationally-standardized-testing-requirement (last visited Nov. 13, 2019) (stating “each private school must administer a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement”). Schools operated by any church or other organized religious group or body as part of its religious ministry that comply with the requirements outlined above are not subject to any other provision of law relating to education except requirements of law respecting fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-554.

The North Carolina Department of Administration’s Directory of Non-Public Schools in North Carolina lists NHCA as a conventional, non-public, religious school for the 2018-2019 school year. See N.C. Directory of Private Schools, N.C. Directory of Non-Public Schools - Conventional Schools Edition, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/private-school/nc-directory-private-schools. Thus, NHCA appears to be a private church school or school of religious charter. M~ reported that NHCA operates on a yearly basis online, which indicates that NHCA operates on a regular schedule during at least nine calendar months of the year. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-548.

However, neither the information provided nor NHCA’s website confirms that NHCA keeps attendance or immunization records or administers standardized tests. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 115C-548, 115C-549, 115C-550. NHCA’s website does not mention any of these requirements. M~ stated in her July 2019 letter that NHCA was able to track when students are online, but she stated that students work at their own pace, and she did not state that NHCA keeps records of online students’ attendance. M~ also stated that students could come to campus for proctored testing, but she did not indicate that NHCA administered nationally standardized tests.

Although the North Carolina Department of Administration’s Directory of Non-Public Schools lists NHCA as a conventional, non-public, religious school, we have found no statute or other resource stating that the inclusion of an entity on that list establishes that the entity meets all the requirements necessary to be a non-public school under North Carolina law.[3] Instead, the Directory of Non-Public Schools appears to list entities who have submitted a notice of intent to operate as a non-public school. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-552(a); N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private Grade K-12 School Requirements; see also, e.g., N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private School FAQs, Administrator, New School, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/private-school/private-school-faqs#administrators,-new-school (last visited Nov. 13, 2019) (suggesting conventional non-public school administrators familiarize themselves with the legal requirements for N.C. conventional non-public schools).

Claimant may be able to provide documents showing that NHCA meets all of the requirements of a non-public school under North Carolina. However, based on the information currently available, we conclude that NHCA is not an educational institution under North Carolina law.

c. Full-Time Attendance

Because NHCA is not an educational institution under North Carolina law, Claimant does not meet the state standards for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300B; POMS RS 00205.350C.1. If Claimant was to provide information showing that NHCA meets all of the requirements of a non-public school under North Carolina as discussed above, Claimant might meet the state standards based on M~’s confirmation of Claimant’s statement that he was in full-time attendance at NHCA. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300B; POMS RS 00205.350C.1. However, M~’s confirmation of full-time attendance may be questionable given M~’s seemingly conflicting statement in her July 2019 letter that NHCA students work at their own pace and that the school could track when students are online, but she did not state that NHCA actually keeps records of online students’ attendance.

In addition, if Claimant were to establish that NHCA is an educational institution under North Carolina law, his enrollment at NHCA might meet the Federal standards for full-time attendance. While Claimant reported, and M~ confirmed, that he was scheduled to attend NHCA at least twenty hours a week, M~’s confirmation of Claimant’s attendance is rather suspect given her other conflicting statement about attendance records. Otherwise, M~ did report that NHCA’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration, and nothing in the information available indicates that Claimant takes correspondence courses. Therefore, Claimant might meet the Federal standards for full-time attendance if his actual attendance question is answered. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300C.

6. Conclusion

NHCA is not an educational institution under North Carolina Law based on the information provided. As a result, Claimant is not in full-time attendance attending an educational institution.

B. PR 19-206 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment in Franklin County Early College High School – North Carolina

Date: October 10, 2019

1. Syllabus

Franklin County Early College High School, an entity located in North Carolina,is an educational institution.

2. Question

You asked whether Franklin County Early College High School (FCECHS), an entity located in North Carolina, is an educational institution for determining if L~ (Claimant), a North Carolina resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

3. Opinion

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

4. Background

Claimant has filed a claim for reinstatement of CIB on the earnings record of E~, the number holder, after Claimant reached age eighteen. Claimant completed a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance form, Form SSA-1372-BK, in which he indicated he lives in Louisburg, North Carolina, and attends FCECHS forty hours per week. Claimant attended FCECHS from August 8, 2018, through May 23, 2019, and his current school year started on August 8, 2019. Claimant reported that he was currently in full time attendance in a high school program. Claimant reported that he expected to graduate from high school in May 2020, he was not married or disabled, he did not expect to earn any money in 2019, and he was not being paid to attend school.

The principal of FCECHS, E~, completed and signed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372-BK and confirmed that the information Claimant provided was correct. Ms. S~ indicated that FCECHS’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration and the school operated on a quarterly/semester basis with no reenrollment required.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction lists FCECHS as a cooperative innovative high school, a public high school operating in Franklin County, North Carolina. See 2018-2019 Cooperative Innovative High Schools of North Carolina, https://www.fcschools.net/ http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/advancedlearning/cihs/2018-19/cihs-list.pdf (last visited Oct. 2, 2019). Additionally, on October 1, 2019, we contacted the Franklin County Board of Education, which confirmed that FCECHS is a public high school in Franklin County, North Carolina (notice of contact made Oct. 1, 2019).

FCECHS’s website explains it is a collaboration between Franklin County Schools and Vance-Granville Community College, where after five years graduates receive a high school diploma and a two year Associates Degree and/or college transfer credits from Vance-Granville Community College. See About ECHS, https://www.fcschools.net/domain/248 (last visited Oct. 2, 2019). The website explains that the daily schedule at FCECHS consists of four blocks of time totaling seven hours of instruction. See id. In order to graduate from FCECHS, students must complete five credits of English, four credits of math, three credits of science, four credits of social studies, two credits of foreign language, one credit of health, and nine to eleven elective credits. See FCECHS Graduation Requirements, https://www.fcschools.net/Page/1425 (last visited Oct. 2, 2019). According to the FCECHS website, a total of 28 credits is required for high school graduation. See id. The FCECHS student handbook states that all students must complete the new Future Ready Core Curriculum program of study, a program required of all North Carolina graduates, in order to receive a high school diploma. See ECHS Student Handbook, https://www.fcschools.net/Page/1427 (last visited Oct. 2, 2019). Students may take a college level course only with approval by the school counselor, community college liaison and the principal, and students completing college classes at an acceptable level will receive both high school and college credit. See id. The FCECHS website shows that the first day of school for the 2019 school term was August 6, 2019, and the school year will end on May 22, 2020. See FCECHS Calendar, https://www.fcschools.net/Page/20#calendar13/20200502/month (last visited Oct. 2, 2019).

5. Discussion

Federal Law

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 (2019);[4] 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. 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 lasting 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 FCECHS is located in North Carolina, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether it 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. In North Carolina, a cooperative innovative high school is a public high school approved by the State Board of Education that partners with an institution of higher education to enable students to concurrently obtain a high school diploma and begin or complete an associate degree program, master a certificate or vocational program, or earn up to two years of college credit within five years. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-238.50A (West 2019). Such schools are approved by the State and are accountable to the local board of education. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-238.53(a) (West 2019).

FCECHS is a public high school operating in Franklin County, North Carolina. Not only is FCECHS listed a cooperative innovative high school, a public high school approved by the State Board of Education, by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website, the Franklin County Board of Education confirmed that FCECHS is a public high school in their district. 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 FCECHS to be a public high school, and there is no evidence to the contrary, FCECHS is an educational institution.

Full-Time Attendance

The evidence also shows that Claimant’s study through FCECHS satisfies the requirements for full-time attendance. Claimant meets the state standards for full-time attendance because Ms. S~, the principal at FCECHS, confirmed Claimant’s statement that he was in full-time attendance at FCECHS. 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 meets the Federal standards for full-time attendance because he stated, and Ms. S~ confirmed, that he attends FCECHS for at least twenty to thirty hours per week; Ms. S~ indicated that FCECHS’s 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. Further, Ms. S~ confirmed Claimant’s statement that he is enrolled in a “high school” program, and while he may be approved to take classes for which college credit is available, the FCECHS student handbook indicates that any such classes also count toward his requirements for high school graduation. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-238.50A(1a)b (West 2019) (indicating students at cooperative innovative high schools earn high school and college credits concurrently). Further, the FCECHS website verifies that although students may earn college credits, to graduate with a high school diploma, they must complete the same core curriculum classes required of all North Carolina public high school students. See ECHS Student Handbook, https://www.fcschools.net/Page/1427 (last visited Oct. 2, 2019). Thus, the information provided indicates Claimant meets the state and Federal full-time attendance standards, and the potential availability of college credit for some of the classes he may take does not alter the analysis.

6. Conclusion

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

C. 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.[5]

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);[6] 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.

D. 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.[7] Therefore, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether the SOAR Academy is an educational institution.[8] 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).[9] 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.[10] 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]

All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2019 edition.

[2]

All references to the North Carolina General Statutes are to the West 2019 edition.

[3]

Similarly, although NHCA’s website indicates that NHCA is “[f]ully licensed” by the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education, we have not found any statute or other resource stating that North Carolina licenses non-public schools. The website for the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education states that it “registers and monitors” non-public schools, but it does not indicate that the State licenses non-public schools. N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Division of Non-Public Education, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/about-doa/divisions/division-non-public-education (last visited Nov. 13, 2019). NHCA’s website also indicates and M~ stated that NHCA is accredited by different organizations, but “North Carolina has no state laws mandating that non-public schools be accredited by an accrediting organization.” N.C. Dep’t of Admin., Private School FAQs, School Accreditation, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/ private-school/private-school-faqs#school-accreditation (last visited Nov. 13, 2019).

[4]

All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2019 edition.

[5]

. 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.

[6]

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

[7]

. . 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.

[8]

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

[9]

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

[10]

. . 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 - 01/16/2020
Batch run: 01/16/2020
Rev:01/16/2020