TN 61 (11-17)

PR 07905.048 Texas

A. PR 18-006 Status of Navarro College as an Educational Institution for Social Security Administration (SSA) Student Benefits

Date: October 13, 2017

1. Syllabus

Navarro College, a postsecondary school offering a state-approved high school equivalency level program, qualifies as an educational institution.

2. Opinion

ANSWER

We believe that the agency could reasonably conclude that Navarro College, a postsecondary school that provides a state-approved high school level program (the adult education high school equivalency program A~ attends), qualifies as an educational institution for A~’s student benefit claim. Additionally, we believe that the agency could reasonably conclude that A~ meets the full-time attendance requirements for student benefits.

BACKGROUND

A. Navarro College’s Adult Education High School Equivalency Program

Navarro College is a two-year accredited community college with five campuses in north Texas. http://www.navarrocollege.edu/about/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). Navarro College offers classes online and on campuses in Corsicana, Waxahachie, Midlothian, Mexia, and Fairfield, Texas. Id. In addition to its postsecondary Associate Degree programs, the school has an Adult Education and Literacy Department, which offers, among other things, preparation courses for high school equivalency examinations, referred to on the school’s website as the HSE (high school equivalency) Program.1 http://www.navarrocollege.edu/basic-education/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The school’s adult education high school equivalency program prepares students for the high school equivalency exams and includes courses in language arts reading/writing, math, social studies, and science. Id.

B. A~’s Attendance in Navarro College’s Adult Education High School Equivalency Program

As we understand the facts, A~ was entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the number holder W~ (A~’s retired father’s) account. A~ resides in C~ Texas and turned 18 in September 2017. To prevent the termination of her benefits, A~ completed a Form SSA-1372-BK (the Form) page 2, Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, on August 14, 2017. She submitted the Form to the Corsicana Field Office on August XX, 2017. In the Form, A~ represented that she began taking GED courses in Navarro College’s adult education program on September 7, 2016, and that she expected to complete the courses on June 1, 2018. She reported that she attended the school for 20 hours per week. On August XX, 2017, L~, Director of Adult Education for Navarro College, signed and dated the Form page 3, Certification by School Official, certifying that the information A~ provided was correct and that the school’s course of study was of at least 13 weeks’ duration, operating on a continuous, year-round basis. L~ also submitted a statement that a student may choose to enroll in more than one GED class, which would allow the student to reach 20 or more hours of attendance per week.

ANALYSIS

A. Entitlement to Student Benefits

Section 202(d)(1)(B) of the Act provides for the payment of child’s insurance benefits on the earnings record of an insured individual entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits, or who has died, to certain applicants who are age eighteen and who are full-time elementary or secondary school students. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B), (6)(A)(i), (7); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.351(a), 404.352(b)(3), 404.367. The SSA’s POMS refers to these benefits as student benefits. See POMS RS 00205.001 (an individual is a student and is eligible for student benefits if: she meets the requirements for child’s benefits; she has attained age 18; she is in full-time attendance; she is attending an educational institution that provides elementary or secondary school level courses; and she has not attained age 19, or she has attained age 19 in a month she is in full-time attendance and meets the conditions for benefits beyond that month).

In general, the agency considers a claimant to be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student” for student benefit purposes if:

(a) the student attends a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state in which the school is located and that complies with state law;

(b) the student is in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks’ duration and carries a subject load considered full-time for day students under standards and practices set by the state in which the student resides;

(c) the student attends school at least 20 hours per week (subject to exceptions);

(d) the student is not being paid while attending the school by an employer that required or requested that the student attend the school;

(e) the student is in grade 12 or below; and

(f) the student is not subject to provisions relevant to nonpayment of benefits to prisoners.

See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; see also POMS RS 00205.001 (eligibility for student benefits). The focus of your legal opinion request is upon the requirements of section 404.367(a)-(c).2

As this matter concerns a student enrolled in a high school equivalency level, or GED program, offered by a postsecondary school, we note that SSA’s policy recognizes that a school offering a GED program can qualify as an educational institution, regardless of the type of school (secondary or postsecondary), if the GED program is an approved elementary or secondary-level program under the laws of the state in which it is located. POMS RS 00205.340(B); see POMS RS 00205.200(B) (“Consider a high school-level program or course taken in a college, community college, vocational, or technical school, to be at the grade 12 level or below, if the program is approved as a secondary-level school program by the board of education of the State or other local jurisdiction in which the school is located.”), RS 00205.250(A) (postsecondary schools may be an education institution “if approved by the State or other local jurisdiction to provide education at the secondary level or below,” and in such cases, “the course of study is the determining factor.”). Because Navarro College is located in Texas, we consider Texas law in determining whether the Navarro College adult education high school equivalency, or GED program that A~ attends, is a state-approved high school level program such that this postsecondary school is an educational institution, and whether A~ meets the full-time attendance requirements. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)-(c); POMS RS 00205.295, RS 00205.340.

B. With Respect to its Adult Education High School Equivalency Program, Navarro College Qualifies as an Educational Institution in Compliance with Texas Law

We first address whether Navarro College offers a state-approved high school level program such that it is an educational institution. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200, RS 00205.250, RS 00205.340. As described in the background section, Navarro College’s Adult Education and Literacy Department offers, among other things, an HSE (high school equivalency) Program. http://www.navarrocollege.edu/basic-education/ (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The school’s adult education high school equivalency program prepares students for the high school equivalency exams and includes courses in language arts reading/writing, math, social studies, and science. Id. A letter from the Director of the Navarro College Adult Education Program confirms that the school “offers classes for GED preparation” and that a student may enroll in more than one GED class. A~ advised SSA that she was enrolled in this program, and the Navarro College Director of Adult Education confirmed her enrollment in this “continuous year-round program.”

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) have authority over high school equivalency programs, testing, and certificates issued in this State, such as those offered by Navarro College’s adult education high school equivalency program. The TEA is authorized to administer high school equivalency examinations and issue certificates of high school equivalency in lieu of issuing diplomas earned through traditional secondary education. See 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.41; http://tea.texas.gov/TxCHSE.html (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The TEA is the only state agency authorized to issue the Texas Certificate of High School Equivalency (TxCHSE). See 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.41.

The TWC’s Adult Education and Literacy Program oversees adult education programs in the State, which includes high school equivalency courses for adults. See 40 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 805.1 – 805.62 (Adult Education and Literacy provisions); http://www.twc.state.tx.us/adult-education-literacy-teachers-providers (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The TWC partners with local adult education and literacy providers, and it funds adult education and literacy programs to assist students to develop the skills needed to earn a high school equivalency certificate. http://www.twc.state.tx.us/students/adult-education (last visited Oct. 10, 2017); http://www.twc.state.tx.us/students/adult-education-students (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The TWC awards funds through a competitive grant process to educational institutions offering adult education programs and requires that grant recipients provide essential program components, one of which is adult secondary education. See 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 805.4; http://www.twc.state.tx.us/programs/adult-education-literacy-program-overview (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). The TWC’s website confirms that Navarro College is an adult education service provider and grant recipient. See http://www-tcall.tamu.edu/provider/fulldisplay.asp?ProviderID=39 (last visited Oct. 10, 2017).

Thus, Navarro College’s adult education high school equivalency program (GED course program) that A~ attends is a state-approved high school level program. As such, Navarro College is an educational institution for purposes of C2’s claim for student benefits even though it is a postsecondary school because the GED program she attends provides high school level courses approved by the State. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200, RS 00205.250, RS 00205.340.

C. A~ Meets the Standards for Full-Time Attendance

We also address whether A~ meets the federal and state standards for full-time attendance. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(A), RS 00205.350(A). To meet the federal standards, the student must be scheduled for attendance at the rate of at least 20 hours per week (subject to exceptions), enrolled in non-correspondence courses, and enrolled in a course of study that is of at least 13 weeks’ duration. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). These full-time attendance requirements apply to a student enrolled in a GED or other high school equivalency program. POMS RS 00205.340(B). As detailed in the background section, A~ checked the box stating that she was in full-time attendance and reported that she attended (and was scheduled to attend) the school’s GED program 20 hours per week from September 7, 2016, through June 1, 2018. The school’s director of adult education, L~, certified that all of the information that A~ provided was correct according to school records. She also certified that the school’s course of study was of at least 13 weeks’ duration, operating on a continuous, year-round basis. Finally, it is our understanding that whether A~ takes classes online, in person, or both, Navarro College is not a correspondence school. See POMS RS 00205.330 (a correspondence school is a school that teaches by mailing lessons and exercises to the student, which the student then completes and returns to the school for grading). Based on this evidence, we believe that the agency could reasonably find that A~ meets the federal standards for full-time attendance.

A school meets the state’s attendance requirement if it considers the student to be full-time based on the school’s standards and practices for day students. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300(B). The TWC does not appear to have attendance requirements for adult education high school equivalency programs. See 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 805. In addition, per L~’s letter, Navarro College does not appear to have minimum attendance requirements for its adult education high school equivalency program, other than requiring “regular attendance.” SSA’s policy instructs that for a student enrolled in a GED program, “[i]f the school has no standards of attendance, use 20 hours of weekly attendance as the school’s standard for purposes of determining [full-time attendance.]” POMS RS 00205.340(C)(1) (a student is in full-time attendance if her “actual attendance is at the rate of at least 20 hours weekly.”). Because A~ stated (and L~ confirmed) that she was in full-time attendance and that she attended the school for 20 hours per week beginning September 2016, and intended to continue to attend the school for 20 hours per week through June 2018, we believe the agency could reasonably conclude that she has “regular attendance,” and therefore meets the standards for full-time attendance. See POMS RS 00205.340.

CONCLUSION

We believe that the agency could reasonably conclude that Navarro College, a postsecondary school offering a state-approved high school equivalency level program (the adult education high school equivalency program A~ attends), qualifies as an educational institution for purposes of A~’s claim for student benefits. We also believe that the agency could reasonably find that A~ meets the full-time attendance requirements for SSA student benefit purposes.

B. PR 05-203 Texas State Law Requirements for an Educational Institution (NH P~, Student C~)

Date: July 22, 2005

1. Syllabus

Texas recognizes private and parochial schools under the state's compulsory attendance provisions as long as the course of study includes a course in good citizenship. The K~ School is a private school in Austin, Texas, that provides elementary and secondary education under Texas law. It is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes. A course in either Government and Economics or Global Citizen Forum at the K~ School can satisfy the requirement for a course in good citizenship.

2. Opinion

The purpose of this memorandum is to respond to your request for our opinion regarding whether The K~ School would qualify under section 202 (d) (7) of the Social Security Act (the Act) as a school that provides elementary or secondary education pursuant to Texas law. See 42 U.S.C. § 402 (d) (7). Specifically, you asked whether C~ qualifies as a full-time student of an elementary or secondary school and is, therefore, entitled to receive benefits on the record of P~. After reviewing the facts and relevant law, we believe that The K~ School qualifies as an educational institution under Texas state law and that C~ is entitled to benefits on P~'s record.

As we understand the facts, C~ attained age eighteen in November 2004, at which time his benefits were terminated. C~ submitted a signed form SSA-1372 on which he reported that he is attending The K~ School, a private school located in Austin, Texas. C~ reported that he attended school forty hours per week, that the school year extended from August 18, 2004, through May 25, 2005, and that he expected to graduate in May 2005. The form is also signed by M~, the school's Director.

The school provided a copy of an accreditation certificate issued by the National Private Schools Accreditation Alliance. M~ has also informed the field office that the school is not accredited by the State of Texas, but that it follows the same curriculum, and it follows the same calendar as the Austin Independent School District. Students attend classes more than twenty hours per week and the courses of study are of at least thirteen weeks in duration. M~ reported that courses in good citizenship are a part of the required curriculum, such as economics and history.

The school has a website, at www.theK~school.org. Information on that website includes the graduation program courses for the twelfth grade. These are: English IV, Physics I, Pre-Calculus, Government and Economics, Global Citizen Forum, Foreign Language IV, Academic Elective, Fine Arts Elective, and Physical Education.

As you know, the child of a wage earner may receive benefits after age eighteen if he is a full-time elementary or secondary school student. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.350 (d) (1). A student receiving instruction in accordance with the law of the state in which he resides is considered a full-time elementary or secondary school student. As C~ resides in Texas, Texas state law applies. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367.

Texas acknowledges private and parochial schools as meeting the state's compulsory attendance provisions, as long as a course in good citizenship is included in the course of study. Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 25.086(1). As discussed in our previous opinions, although a student is age 18 and, therefore, not subject to compulsory attendance requirements, acceptance of his schooling for compulsory attendance purposes indicates state acknowledgement of his instruction for other purposes as well.

The statute contains no definition of "good citizenship," and we have found no cases defining the term. We, therefore, looked to a generally accepted definition. "Citizenship" is defined as "the status of being a citizen" and "the quality of a person's conduct as a member of a community." See Black's Law Dictionary 8th ed. 2004. "Citizen" is defined as "a person who, by either birth or naturalization, is a member of a political community, owing allegiance to the community and being entitled to enjoy all its civil rights and protections; a member of the civil state, entitled to all its privileges." Id.

As discussed above, Texas requires that a course in good citizenship be included in the course of study for private or parochial school attendance to satisfy compulsory attendance requirements. See Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 25.086(1). As shown by all of the definitions relevant to understanding the term "good citizenship," the term relates to the rights, duties, and privileges associated with membership in a political community. C~'s curriculum included a course in Government and Economics as well as a course called Global Citizen Forum, which incorporates instruction in the student's role in the world community. We believe that these courses satisfy the requirement for a course in good citizenship. Thus, we believe that it would be appropriate to determine that C~'s curriculum met the compulsory attendance requirements.

In addition, the records provided indicate that C~ took courses typical of a high school curriculum and representative of a full course load. If you are satisfied that these representations are accurate, the requirement that C~ must be a full-time student would also be met. Thus, C~ would be entitled to benefits on P’s.'s record for the period through his May 2005 graduation.

Tina M. W~
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V

By: Brenda L~
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

. Form SSA-1372-BK Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance and SSA policy refer to General Education Development (GED) programs for high school equivalency programs. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.340. The State of Texas, however, recognizes three high-school-equivalency assessment tests: the GED test, the HiSET exam, and the TASC test. http://tea.texas.gov/TxCHSE.html (last visited Oct. 10, 2017). These assessments serve as the basis for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to issue the Texas Certificate of High School Equivalency (TxCHSE). Id. In this opinion, however, we use the terms GED program and high school equivalency program, and GED certificate and TxCHSE, interchangeably.

[2]

. The Act and regulations refer to attendance in an “elementary or secondary school” and the POMS uses the specific term “educational institution” to mean “a school that provides elementary or secondary education (grade 12 or below).” See POMS RS 00205.200. These terms have the same meaning. We will refer to the term educational institution.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905048
PR 07905.048 - Texas - 11/27/2017
Batch run: 11/27/2017
Rev:11/27/2017