You have asked whether MUST High School can be considered an educational institution
for an 18-year-old Michigan resident (Claimant) for purposes of receipt of student
benefits. Particularly, you have asked whether MUST University is an educational
institution pursuant to Michigan State law. Because we were unable to determine in
what state the internet high school is located, we could not determine whether MUST
High school is an educational institution under Michigan State law or the law of any
other state. It appears unlikely that the school would be an educational institution
under any state law. In any event, we do not need to reach the issue in this case
because the school failed to verify the Claimant’s status as a full-time student in
a manner acceptable to SSA.
The Claimant, Christopher, applied for students benefits. With his application, the
Claimant submitted an SSA-1372-BK form stating that he had been attending MUST High
School since November 4, 2009, and that he was not sure when his school year would
end. However, in the margin of the form, he indicated an end date of May 30, 2011. He
stated that he was scheduled to attend MUST High school 40 hours a week. The SSA
1372-BK form was incomplete because it was not signed by a school official who would
certify as to the Claimant’s attendance at the school. You have indicated that the
school refuses to sign any documentation.
In lieu of submitting a signed verification under the SSA 1372-BK, Claimant submitted
an online printout from MUST High School which purports to constitute the school’s
official validation of Claimant’s enrollment. The printout invites the reader to further
verify the Claimant’s enrollment by logging onto an e-mail address or by calling the
telephone number assigned to the school. The Claimant also submitted a student identification
card indicating that it was issued on February 20, 2001, and was valid until March
The Social Security Act specifies that full-time attendance at an educational institution
is a prerequisite to receiving child’s insurance benefits. 42 U.S.C. 402(d). To be
eligible to receive child’s insurance benefits, an individual who is 18 years of age
but has not attained age 19 must be a full-time elementary or secondary school student
at an educational institution. 42 U.S.C. 402(d)(7)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. 404.367. The Act further provides that an “elementary or secondary school”
is “a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined
under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” 42 U.S.C.
402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also 20 C.F.R. 404.367(a).
The POMS defines an online school as one that offers Internet-based courses to students. POMS
RS 00205.295. A child attending an online school may be a full-time student if: the student meets
the standards for full-time attendance as defined in RS 00205.300, and the online school is consistent with the law of the state in which the online
school is located. Id.
Claimant Has Not Verified Full-Time Attendance
A student is in FTA if he is attending a secondary level school (an educational institution
(EI)) as defined in RS 00205.200 and is meeting both the state and federal standards for FTA. SSA considers the state
requirements met if the school considers the student to be full-time based on the
school’s standards and practices for day students. To meet federal standards, a student
must be: scheduled for attendance at the rate of at least 20 hours per week; enrolled
in a course that is not a correspondence course; and enrolled in a course of study
that is of at least 13 weeks duration. POMS RS 00205.300.
Claimant indicated in this application that he attends an online high school for forty
hours per week, and, last year, he attended this school only eight hours per week. However,
as you have indicated, MUST High School refused to sign the Certification by School
Official by the SSA 1372-BK which would verify this attendance. According to POMS
RS 00205.295 which governs Online Schools, the fact that the school was unable or unwilling to
certify the Claimant’s attendance is a sufficient reason to deny the claim. See POMS RS 00205.295(F).
We have considered whether Claimant’s submission of an online printout from MUST High
School which purports to constitute the school’s official validation of his enrollment
and the Claimant’s school identification card are sufficient to verify FTA. Although
POMS RS 00205.350 does allow for a school to verify FTA in ways other than signing the Form SSA-1372,
the information provided by Claimant does not appear to meet these alternative requirements.
For example, the POMS allows for a statement from the school on its own form or letterhead
if it gives the same information as the SSA 1372 or other types of evidence if worked
out by agreement with a particular school and the Assistant Regional Commissioner,
Management Operations and Support (ARC-MOS). POMS RS 00205.350(B). However, the evidence submitted by the Claimant does not satisfy these requirements.
Specifically, the document gives no information about the number of hours the Claimant
is scheduled to attend the school.
In any event, as discussed below, even if the Claimant could verify his full-time
attendance at MUST High School, we have determined that MUST is not likely to be considered
an educational institution.
We Could Not Verify That MUST High School Is An Educational Institution
You have asked whether MUST High School is an educational institution under Michigan
law. The POMS defines an educational institution as a school which provides elementary
or secondary education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction
in which it is located. POMS RS 00205.200. The main problem in evaluating whether MUST High School is an Educational Institution
(EI) is that its exact whereabouts could not be verified. Therefore, we were unable
to determine which state law would apply.
It is possible that the school may be located in California. MUST High School does
not, on its website, list its location or contact information. The undersigned called
the telephone number assigned to MUST and spoke informally with a person who identified
himself as Todd , Admissions Counselor. He stated that the school was “global” but
that one of its main offices was in California. According to the Better Business Bureau
(BBB), MUST University, also known as MUST High School, has provided its contact information
as his. . However, the BBB has noted that mail sent to that address was returned
as undeliverable. In processing fourteen complaints against MUST, the BBB has indicated
that the company could not be located and has assigned a rating of “F” to the school.
See BBB, Reliability Report, found at: http://www.bbb.org/greater-san-francisco/business-reviews/schools-academic-special-education/must-university-in-san-francisco-ca-354232 (last visited 4/6/11). We have attached a print-out of this information.
If that is the case, MUST is not a school which is organized and functioning in a
way which is consistent with the laws of the State of California. California recognizes
online public schools as educational institutions, either as alternative schools of
choice or charter schools. See Survey of Online Schooling Requirements For the States and Protectorates in Region
IX (Feb. 8, 2010). However, MUST High School does not purport to be a public school,
and the Claimant is not attending MUST as a California public school since he lives
We considered whether MUST High School is a private school recognized by the State
of California. In order to be a private school recognized by the State of California,
the school must be in English, have proper courses and instructors, keep track of
attendance for each student, and have filed an affidavit or statement required by
California State law, and then would be included on a list maintained by the Superintendent
of Public Instruction. Cal. Educ. Code 33190. However, The California Department of
Education’s school directory, which includes public schools, private schools, nonpublic
nonsectarian schools, school districts and county offices of education does not recognize
MUST High School in a state-wide search. See California Department of Education, California School Directory, http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/sd/ .
In sum, the Claimant cannot be considered a full-time student of MUST High School
because the school has failed to verify his status in a manner acceptable to SSA.
In any event, it is highly unlikely that MUST High School would be considered an educational
Donna L. Calvert
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V
Assistant Regional Counsel