Issue A person who is 18 years old and not disabled may be entitled to child's benefits
if he or she is a full-time student at "a school which provides . . . secondary education
as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located."_1
Does Berean Baptist Christian Academy (BBCA), an unaccredited nonpublic religious
school in Ogden, Utah, provide "secondary education," as defined by Utah law?
BBCA provides "secondary education," as defined by Utah law.
Ashley H~ currently receives child's benefits as a minor child and will become 18
years old in May 2004. She is a junior at BBCA in Ogden, Utah. BBCA has been in existence
for 25 years but is not accredited or approved by the State of Utah. The school issues
a diploma for high school graduation, which is accepted by at least three universities
in Utah, including Utah State University and Weber State University. It has approximately
27 students, a 7 -hour school day, and a 180-day school year. It maintains attendance
records and conducts at least one attendance check per school day. Students in grades
9 - 12 are required to earn a minimum of 24 credits, including the following: 4.0
credits in language arts, 2.0 credits in mathematics, 2.0 credits in science, 3.5
credits in social studies, 2.0 credits in health, 1.5 credits in physical education,
and 5.5 credits in elective courses (e.g., art, accounting, general business, computer
literacy, business math, typing, French, Greek, Spanish, literature I & II, home economics,
shop, and numerous courses in religion)._2
The Social Security Act provides for benefits for children of individuals who are
entitled to Social Security benefits or who die with sufficient Social Security insurance
coverage._3 While eligibility for child's benefits usually terminates when the child
attains the age of 18,_4 eligibility may continue if the child is a "full-time student"
at "a school which provides elementary or secondary education as determined under
the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located."_5 The Commissioner's
regulations define "full-time attendance" as scheduled attendance of at least 20 hours
per week (unless one of two narrow exceptions applies) in a course of at least 13
Ashley attends BBCA more than 20 hours per week, and the duration of BBCA's school
year exceeds 13 weeks. Therefore, Ashley is a "full-time student," as defined in the
Commissioner's regulations. The remaining question is whether BBCA is a school which
provides "secondary education," as defined by Utah law.
Under Utah's compulsory attendance law, a parent or guardian must "enroll and send
a school-age minor to a public or regularly-established private school."_7 A regularly-established
private school is "a school operated by private interests as a substitute for, and
giving the equivalent of, instruction required in public schools."_8 To provide a
"secondary education," therefore, a private school must satisfy the minimum standards
established for public schools in Utah.
The Utah State Board of Education has established minimum standards for the operation
and curriculum of public schools. School are required to conduct school for at least
990 hours and 180 school days each year (i.e., 5 hours per day), to keep records of
attendance, and to conduct a minimum of one attendance check each school day._9 Students
in grades 9 - 12 are required to earn a minimum of 24 credits, including the following
required "core curriculum:" 3.0 credits in language arts, 2.0 credits in mathematics,
2.0 credits in science, 3.0 credits in social studies, 1.5 credits in arts, 0.5 credits
in health, 1.5 credits in physical education, and 1.0 credits in applied technology._10
"Public school teachers must be certified by the State, but no such requirement appears
to be imposed on private school teachers."_11
BBCA, therefore, meets or exceeds all of the minimum requirements for operation and
curriculum for Utah public schools, with the exception of the curriculum requirements
of 1.5 credits in arts and 1.0 credits in applied technology. BBCA's requirement of
5.5 credits in elective courses (which include courses in the arts and applied technology),
however, seems more than adequate to satisfy those requirements.
Ashley H~ is a "full-time student" at BBCA, which provides "secondary education,"
as defined by Utah law. She is entitled, therefore, to receive child's benefits through
her senior year at BBCA.[_12
Deana R. E. L~
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V
Thomas S. I~
Assistant Regional Counsel
_1 See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350 - 404.352, 404.367 (2003).
_2 We contacted BBCA and obtained additional information on its operation and curriculum.
_3 See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d).
_4 See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(b)(6) & (7).
_5 See 20. C.F.R. §§ 404.352, 404.367 (2003).
_6 See 20. C.F.R. § 404.367 (2003).
_7 See U.C.A. 1953 § 53A-11-101 (emphasis added).
_8 See Utah Attorney General, Informal Opinion No. 82-41 (April 28, 1982).
_9 See U.A.C. R277-419.
_10 See U.A.C. R277-700.
_11 See Utah Attorney General, Informal Opinion No. 82-41 (April 28, 1982).
_12 See20. C.F.R. § 404.352(b)(3) (2003).