TN 1 (12-06)
PR 08105.032 New Hampshire
A. PR 07-032 Status of Educational Institution - New Hampshire law, Claim of Sean C~, SSN: ~
DATE: December 7, 2006
The Ombudsman Alternative Education Program (OAEP) in Manchester, New Hampshire, is an alternative study program that provides secondary education in accordance with New Hampshire law. Thus, OAEP is an educational institution for SSA purposes. The student must also meet Federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for the payment of benefits.
You have requested our opinion regarding whether the Ombudsman Alternative Education Program in Manchester, New Hampshire can considered an educational institution, and whether Sean C~ can be considered to be in full time attendance. For the reasons stated below, it is our opinion that the program can be considered an educational institution and that Sean C~ is in full time attendance.
The relevant facts as we understand them are: Ombudsman has been hired by the State of New Hampshire as an alternative program for their Department of Education and is considered to be an approved program by the Department of Education. The program's current school year runs between September 2006 and June 2007 and requires its participants to attend classes for fifteen hours a week and then complete another fifteen hours of voluntary or paid work.
The beneficiary states that he attends classes for fifteen hours a week and then performs another fifteen hours of required work or volunteer hours per week.
Section 202(d)(7)(A) of the Act provides in pertinent part that a “full time elementary or secondary school student” is an individual who is in full time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school as determined by the Commissioner in light of the standards and practices of the schools involved.
Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act states that an elementary or secondary school is a school that provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.
The Commissioner's regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 404.367 (2005) basically restate the statutory provisions.
SSA's policy in this area in set out in Program Operations Manual System (POMS). POMS section RS 00205.200, “What is an Educational Institution (EI) - Policy” states in relevant part that an “EI” is a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located. An institution must be a school to be an EI.
POMS RS 00205.250C. outlines a multi-step process to determine if the school provides elementary or secondary education as determined under State law. Steps two and three provide that where the school has not applied for nor received accreditation from the State and the State Department of Education cannot state that the school provides an approved elementary or secondary program, the case should be submitted to the Chief Counsel to determine if the school qualifies as an EI under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.
Since there is no valid precedent for the Ombudsman Alternative Education Program in the State of New Hampshire, you have forwarded this request for our opinion as to whether this program can be considered an EI.
For the Ombudsman Alternative Education Program to be considered an EI, the program must conform to the requirements of state law and meet the Federal Standards of Attendance. To meet the federal requirements, a student must be scheduled for attendance at a rate of at least twenty hours a week, be enrolled in a course that is not a correspondence course and be enrolled in a course of study for at least a thirteen week duration. POMS RS 00205.300C.
Based on the information provided, the Ombudsman Program appears to meet the federal requirements for an EI. The program will be of at least thirteen weeks in duration as Sean C~ is scheduled to attend the program from September 2006 through June 2007. The program also does not appear to involve correspondence courses. Further, the Ombudsman Program has certified that Sean C~ is attending classes for fifteen hours a week as well as performing at least fifteen hours a week of employment or volunteer work.
The question then becomes whether the Ombudsman Program meets the state requirements for being an EI. To meet the state criteria for being an EI, the program must provide an elementary or secondary education as required by the laws of the State where located. POMS RS 00205.200 In this case, for the program to qualify as an EI, the curriculum of the program must meet the standards