TN 8 (10-14)
PR 08105.036 North Carolina
A. PR 14-168 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment in Ashworth College a.k.a. James Madison High School
DATE: September 11, 2014
The claimant attends James Madison High School (JMHS), located in Norcross, Georgia. Some states use independent study as a form of alternative secondary education, and local education agencies (e.g., high schools or school districts) run the programs. No evidence provided shows that a local school or school district runs the JMHS program, and the claimant’s attendance at JMHS does not meet the independent study requirements. North Carolina, where the claimant lives, established the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). The NCVPS allows certain students to take online courses at no cost. There is no evidence to show that the claimant enrolled in any NCVPS courses; therefore, she does not meet independent study provisions by attending NCVPS courses.
For determining a claimant’s eligibility for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time student, you asked whether the claimant’s attendance at Ashworth College a.k.a. James Madison High School (JMHS), an entity located in Georgia, satisfies the requirements for full-time attendance at an educational institution where the claimant is a North Carolina resident.
Claimant does not meet the federal standards for full-time attendance in accordance with the requirements of North Carolina law.
According to the information provided, Kayla (Claimant) received CIB on the earnings record of her father, Donnie, the deceased number holder. Claimant seeks CIB beyond the age of eighteen as a full-time student after the Social Security Administration (SSA) terminated her CIB. Claimant provided a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance, in which she indicated she lives in Elkin, North Carolina, and attends JMHS twenty hours per week. Claimant indicated JMHS is a high school program located in Norcross, Georgia, and that she had attended the same school the previous school year. Claimant reported she expected to graduate in July 2015; was not married or disabled; did not expect to earn more than $15,480 in 2014; and was not being paid to attend school.
An Academic Coordinator with JMHS sent SSA a letter stating Claimant enrolled at the school on September 21, 2012, was an active student in good standing, and was expected to graduate in July 2015. The Academic Coordinator also indicated JMHS’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration. The Academic Coordinator stated JMHS did not classify students as full or part time and stated students work at their own pace and were not required to spend any set number of hours on their studies. This information conforms information from JMHS’s website. See Online Learning Experience – JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience; Homeschooling High School – Homeschool Online – JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience (last visited Aug. 29, 2014). The Academic Coordinator further reported that a student’s parent has the responsibility to monitor and verify hours of attendance if applicable home school laws require such information . According to JMHS’s website, after enrollment, students access their courses through an online student portal where they receive and upload their assignments and complete assessments and examinations, which are then computer scored or hand graded by teachers. See Online Learning Experience - JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience (last visited Aug. 27, 2014).
To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who dies fully or currently insured, an individual 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 (2014); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001(A). An individual 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 00205.001(A); POMS RS 00205.200(A). An individual also may qualify as an elementary or secondary school student if he or she receives instruction in elementary or secondary education at home under the home school law of the State or other jurisdiction where the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275(A). Additionally, an individual may be considered an elementary or secondary school student if he or she is in an independent study program administered by the local school or school district in accordance with the law of the State or jurisdiction in which he or she resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.285.
An individual 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). An individual 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 00205.295(B); 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). An individual meets the State standards if the school considers the beneficiary to be a full-time student based on the school’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). An individual 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 of at least thirteen weeks duration. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). A home schooled individual must meet the federal standards for full-time attendance and meet the home-school requirements of the State in which the home school is located. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.275(B). Attendance for a student in an independent study program must also meet the Federal full-time attendance requirements, which one accomplishes by combining the number of hours at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours in independent study. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c); POMS RS 00205.285(B).
Educational Institution Under Georgia Law
As noted in the request for an opinion, a prior Regional Chief Counsel opinion found JMHS does not qualify as an educational institution in Georgia, the state in which it is located. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) PR 07905.012 (PR 13-024). The previous determination was based on the facts that JMHS does not require any set number of hours to be spent on studies and that there is no evidence that JMHS keeps attendance logs or complies with the reporting requirements of State law. See id.; Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b)(3), (5) (West 2014). Claimant has provided nothing to change that determination. Therefore, Claimant cannot qualify as a full-time elementary or secondary student based on her enrollment at JMHS.
Home Schooling and Independent Study under North Carolina Law
Because Claimant resides in North Carolina, we look to North Carolina law to determine whether Claimant is home schooled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1), (b); POMS RS 00205.275(A)-(B). Under North Carolina law, a home school is a nonpublic school consisting of the children of not more than two families or households, where the parents, legal guardians, or members of either household determine the scope and sequence of instruction, provide academic instruction, and determine additional sources of academic instruction. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-563(a) (West 2014); DNPE Home School Requirements, Reminders and Recommendations, http://www.ncdnpe.org/hhh103.aspx (last visited Aug. 29, 2014). Those individuals desiring to home school a child must submit a Notice of Intent to Operate a Home School to the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education. See N. C. Div. of Non-Public Educ., Home School Guidebook, 2, http://www.ncdnpe.org/documents/HomeSchoolGuideBook.pdf (last visited Aug. 27, 2014); N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-552, 115C-560. Home schools must perform nationally standardized tests or other nationally standardized equivalent measurements annually, which must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. See id. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-564 (citing N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-549, 115C-557). Additionally, the persons providing academic instruction in a home school are required to hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. See id.
Furthermore, North Carolina home schools must elect to operate under the qualifications applicable to either private church schools and schools of religious charter or qualified nonpublic schools. See id. § 115C-564. For either type of institution, the school must maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each pupil enrolled and regularly attending classes. See id. §§ 115C-548, 115C-556, 115C-565. Therefore, home schools must comply with these requirements as well.
Nothing in the information provided suggests Claimant takes annual standardized tests or nationally standardized equivalent measurements as part of her JMHS enrollment or otherwise. JMHS’s Academic Coordinator stated that JMHS does not keep attendance records and Claimant has not shown that anyone keeps her attendance and immunization records. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled in accordance with North Carolina law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275(A).
Moreover, Claimant’s participation in JMHS does not appear to satisfy the independent study provisions of the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2). Independent study is a method of alternative secondary education used in some States. POMS RS 00205.285(A). Local education agencies, such as high schools or school districts, run independent study programs. Id. Independent study programs are run “in accordance with specific State law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation.” Id. The programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home. Id. Nothing in the information provided suggests any local school or school district runs the JMHS program. As such, Claimant’s use of the JMHS’s program does not seem to satisfy the independent study requirements.
North Carolina established the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS), which began operation in the summer of 2007 and allowed students in public schools, Department of Defense schools, and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take online courses at no cost. See History?North Carolina Virtual Public School, http://www.ncvps.org/index.php/about-us/history/ (last visited Aug. 26, 2014). The NCVPS also currently offers courses for non-public school students, including home schooled students, private school students, or out-of-state students. See Non-Public School Students?North Carolina Virtual Public School, http://www.ncvps.org/index.php/parents/non-public-school-students/ (last visited Aug. 26, 2014). However, nothing in the information provided suggests Claimant has enrolled in any NCVPS courses. As such, it does not appear that Claimant could meet the independent study provisions of the regulations via the NCVPS either.
Claimant has not demonstrated that JMHS is an educational institution under Georgia law. Additionally, Claimant has not demonstrated that she is participating in a home school or independent study program in compliance with North Carolina law. The information provided also does not indicate Claimant meets the standards for full-time attendance at an educational institution.
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Christopher D. Yarbrough
Assistant Regional Counsel
All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2014 version.
All references to the N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. are to the West 2014 version.