BASIC (09-15)

PS 08205.015 Idaho

A. PS 15-142 - Legal Precedent Opinion- Whether Online Classes Can Be Considered Schooling for Title XVI Purposes in the States of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

June 5, 2015

1. Syllabus

Idaho does not have statutes with requirements specific to online education; however, Idaho law establishes requirements for educational institutions in general. In addition to meeting the following requirements, the student must attend classes for a certain number of hours per week. The number of hours per week depends on the type of classes the student attends.

Grades seven through twelve: Public secondary schools serving grades nine through twelve must meet the standards of the Northwest Accreditation Commission. Idaho’s State Department of Education publishes a list of accredited schools (https://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/accreditation/) that operate in compliance with Idaho law.

Idaho does not regulate private or parochial schools; thus, an online private or parochial school does not need to meet specific requirements to comply with Idaho law.

College or university: Idaho’s State Board of Education publishes a list of public colleges and universities (https://boardofed.idaho.gov/public_col_univ/public_col_univ_jump.asp) that offer online coursework consistent with Idaho law.

The Idaho State Board of Education publishes a list of private colleges and universities that are either registered with the Board or exempt from registration. These institutions (http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/) offer courses consistent with Idaho law.

Course of training to prepare the individual for a paying job: Idaho’s State Board of Education publishes a list of proprietary schools (i.e., schools that offer or sell courses of study but do not provide degrees). Proprietary schools listed at http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/priv_proprietary/priv_proprietary_registration.asp offer online coursework consistent with Idaho law.

Other programs: Obtain an opinion from OGC if a program does not meet these requirements to determine if it is consistent with Idaho law.

2. Opinion

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked us whether students enrolled in online classes in a school located in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington can be considered regularly attending school for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) purposes.

BRIEF ANSWER

Individuals enrolled in online classes offered by a school that meets the state requirements for educational institutions in the subject states can be considered regularly attending school for SSI purposes.

ANALYSIS

  1. SSA Requirements

    The Social Security Act provides that, for SSI purposes, certain income exclusions may apply to an individual who is a student, including the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). See 42 U.S.C. § 1382a(b)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 416.1870. Under the SEIE, the SSA will not count all of the earned income of a student when determining SSI eligibility and benefit amount. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1870. For SSI purposes, a student is under age 22 and regularly attending school, college, or training designed to prepare him or her for a paying job. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1861, 416.1872.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) is revising the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) section SI 00501.020, which describes who is a student for the purposes of the SEIE. To be considered a student, an individual must meet the general requirements of regular attendance by taking one or more courses of study and attending classes for a certain number of hours per week in (1) a college or university; (2) grades seven through twelve; or (3) in a course of training designed to prepare the individual for a paying job. SI 00501.020C.1 (Draft, dated April 13, 2015) (currently SI 00501.020D.1).
    The POMS revision includes a provision regarding online schooling. The POMS revision states:
    A recipient who receives his or her education through online schooling may be a student regularly attending school if:

    • He or she meets the student attendance general requirements (see SI 00501.020C.1 in this section); and

    • The online school is consistent with the laws of the state in which the online school is located. . . .

    POMS SI 00501.020C.4 (Draft, dated April 13, 2015). Thus, an individual may qualify as a student if he or she attends an online school that is consistent with the laws of the state in which the online school is located and that school is a college, university, or school offering instruction in grades seven through twelve, or offers a course of training to prepare the individual for a paying job.

    The POMS revision describes additional requirements for an individual to qualify for the SEIE. For example, an individual must meet specified hours of attendance. POMS SI 00501.020C.1 (Draft, dated April 13, 2015). Further, additional provisions apply to a student enrolled in special education or vocational or technical training. POMS SI 00501.020E.5-6 (Draft, dated April 13, 2015). To qualify for the SEIE while attending an online school, an individual must meet all requirements of the POMS, and the institution the individual attends must be consistent with the laws of the state as described below.

  2. State Law

    Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon do not have statutes or regulations detailing requirements specific to online education. Washington has laws relating to online public secondary education, but does not have statutes or regulations detailing requirements for other types of online coursework. However, as detailed below, the laws of these states establish requirements for educational institutions generally.

    Further, these states have enacted statutes to promote online education, the use of technology in education, or other distance-learning programs. See, e.g., Alaska Stat. § 14.03.300 (describing correspondence study programs); Idaho Code § 33-1024 (allocating funding for the development of online courses in secondary and postsecondary schools); Idaho Code § 33-5502 (establishing the Idaho Digital Learning Academy for delivery of public school education); Oregon Rev. Stat. § 329.840(1) (creating the Oregon Virtual School District to provide online courses for grades kindergarten through twelve); Wash. Rev. Code § 28B.120.005(3) (encouraging promotion of online coursework in higher education).

    Thus, any online program or course offered by an institution that meets the requirements for an educational institution in the state where the institution is located is consistent with the laws of that state.

    1. Alaska

      1. Grades Seven Through Twelve

        Alaska law provides that the Department of Education and Early Development supervises correspondence programs offered by public schools. Alaska Stat. § 14.07.020(a)(9). The Department publishes a list of correspondence schools, including online schools, that comply with Alaska law. Alaska Statewide Correspondence Schools, Department of Education & Early Development, http://www.eed.state.ak.us/Alaskan_Schools/corres/ (last visited June 1, 2015). Coursework offered by schools on this list is consistent with the laws of Alaska.

        Alaska has very few requirements for private schools. Private schools must maintain monthly attendance records, operate on a “regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations,” and must operate at least 180 days of the year. Alaska Stat. § 14.45.110. The school must administer a standardized test to students enrolled in grades four, six, and eight and maintain records of test results. Alaska Stat. § 14.45.120. The school must also maintain student records relating to immunizations, physical examinations, standardized testing, academic achievement, and coursework. Alaska Stat. § 14.45.130. A private school that meets these requirements is consistent with the laws of Alaska and exempt from other educational requirements. Alaska Stat. § 14.45.100.

      2. College or University, or Course of Training to Prepare the Individual For a Paying Job.

        A postsecondary school may not operate in Alaska unless it has valid authorization or is exempt from authorization. Alaska Stat. § 14.48.020. The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education authorizes institutions to operate. Alaska Stat. § 14.48.050. The Commission publishes a list of programs it has authorized or has determined to be exempt from authorization requirements. Alaska Postsecondary Institutions, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, http://acpe.alaska.gov/ABOUT_US/Programs_Services/Institutional_Authorization
        /Alaska_Postsecondary_Institutions (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Alaska.

        Other programs may also be consistent with the laws of Alaska. If a program does not meet the requirements above, we recommend seeking an opinion from OGC.

    2. Idaho

      1. Grades Seven Through Twelve

        The Idaho State Board of Education has established accreditation standards for public, private, and parochial schools. Idaho Code § 33-119. Public secondary schools serving grades nine through twelve need to be accredited by meeting the standards of the Northwest Accreditation Commission. Idaho Admin. Code 08.02.02.120. The Idaho State Department of Education maintains a searchable website for determining if a school is accredited. Accreditation, Idaho State Department of Education, http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/accreditation/ (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by a school that is accredited by AdvanceED is consistent with the laws of Idaho. Id.

        Idaho does not regulate private or parochial schools. Accreditation is voluntary for private and parochial schools. Idaho Admin. Code 08.02.02.120. Thus, an online private or parochial school does not need to meet any specific requirements to be operating consistent with the laws of Idaho.

      2. College or University

        The Idaho State Board of Education approves all academic and professional-technical programs for public postsecondary institutions. Idaho Code § 33-101. The Board publishes a list of public colleges and universities. Public Colleges & Universities in Idaho, Idaho State Board of Education, http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/public_col_univ/state_college-university_nonflash.asp (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Idaho.

        Private colleges and universities must register with the Idaho State Board of Education or be exempt from registration. Idaho Code § 33-2402. The Board publishes a list of registered and exempt institutions. Idaho State Board of Education, http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/priv_col_univ/reg_col_univ.asp (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Idaho.

      3. Course of Training to Prepare the Individual For a Paying Job.

        “Proprietary schools” include schools that offer or sell courses of study but do not provide degrees. Idaho Code § 33-2401(11). These schools are required to register with the Idaho State Board of Education. Idaho Code § 33-2403(1); see also Idaho Admin. Code § 08.02.01.800 (referencing correspondence schools). The Board publishes a list of registered schools. Proprietary School Registration, Idaho State Board of Education, http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/priv_proprietary/priv_proprietary_registration.asp (follow “Registered Schools” hyperlink) (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Idaho.

        Other programs may also be consistent with the laws of Idaho. If a program does not meet the requirements above, we recommend seeking an opinion from OGC.

    3. Oregon

      1. Grades Seven Through Twelve

        Coursework offered through a public school district, a virtual public school, a virtual public charter school, or through the Oregon Virtual School District is consistent with the laws of Oregon. See Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 329.840, 338.005(6), 339.122(1).

        Oregon law describes requirements for private or parochial schools. Children may attend a private or parochial school (1) if they are taught “in the courses of study usually taught” in the public schools, and (2) attend “for a period equivalent to that required of children attending public schools.” Or. Rev. Stat. § 339.030(1)(a). The statute does not elaborate on what courses of study are “usually taught” in public schools, however inferences may be drawn from other statutes. For example, all private schools must provide courses of instruction in the Constitution and history of the United States from grade eight through grade twelve. Or. Rev. Stat. § 336.057. See also Or. Rev. Stat. § 336.074 (instruction must be in English); Or. Rev. Stat. § 326.575 (transfer of student records). Students are required to have at least 990 instructional hours per year in grades nine through twelve. Or. Admin. R. 581-022-1620. Coursework offered by an online private or parochial school that meets these requirements is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

        If it is unclear if a private or parochial school meets the requirements above, we recommend seeking an opinion from OGC.

      2. College or University

        “Established” universities in Oregon include University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, Eastern Oregon University, and Oregon Health and Science University. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 352.002, 353.030. Further, any institution with the words “community college” in the official name is consistent with the laws of Oregon. Or. Rev. Stat. § 341.415. The Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development publishes a list of community colleges. Oregon Community Colleges Information, Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon.gov, http://www.oregon.gov/CCWD/pages/ccdirectory.aspx (last visited June 1, 2015). A list of community colleges is available. http://www.oregon.gov/
        CCWD/pages/ccdirectory.aspx. Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

        Private colleges or universities that are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and located in Oregon are approved in Oregon. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 353.720, 352.790(4). The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities publishes a list of these institutions. Oregon, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, http://www.nwccu.org/Directory%20of%20Inst/State%20Map/Oregon/Oregon.htm (last updated Mar. 2, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

        Educational institutions may also be approved by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Or. Rev. Stat. § 348.606(1). The Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion publishes a list of these institutions. Private Colleges Approved for Oregon Students, Office of Student Access and Completion, http://www.oregonstudentaid.gov/oda-degree-authorization-academic-programs-approved.aspx (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

        If the educational institution is operated by a nonprofit corporation and offers degrees in theology or religious occupations, the institution may meet an exception to the above rules. See Or. Rev. Stat. § 348.604. The Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion publishes a list of these institutions. Approval of Exempt Status, Religious Exempt Schools, Office of Student Access and Completion, http://www.oregonstudentaid.gov/oda-exempt-status-religious-exempt.aspx (last visited June 1, 2015). Online coursework offered by these institutions is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

      3. Course of Training to Prepare the Individual For a Paying Job.

        The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission provides licenses for private career schools. Or. Rev. Stat. § 348.606(1). The Commission publishes a list of licensed cosmetology schools. HECC-Private Career Schools, Oregon Education Investment Board, http://education.oregon.gov/Pages/HECC--Private-Career-Schools.aspx (last visited June 1, 2015). For other private career schools, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission can provide information about whether the institution is licensed. See id. If the institution is licensed and offers online coursework, the coursework is consistent with the laws of Oregon.

        Other programs may also be consistent with the laws of Oregon. If a program does not meet the requirements above, we recommend seeking an opinion from OGC.

    4. Washington

      1. Grades Seven Through Twelve

        In Washington, a student may obtain secondary education by attending public school, “an approved private school,” or through home-based instruction. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.225.010(1). Washington has an approval process for providers of online public education. See Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.250.020. The Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction maintains a website of approved online providers. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.250.030; see Approved Providers List, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, http://digitallearning.k12.wa.us/approval/providers/ (last visited June 1, 2015). Providers include those authorized to provide “Online School Programs,” which can provide a full-time basic education program. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.250.010(2)(b). The approved providers list also includes “Online Course Providers,” which are authorized to provide individual courses. See Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.250.010(2)(a). A student enrolled in a school or course run by an approved provider is attending an online school that is consistent with the laws of Washington.

        Washington requires private schools to be “approved” by the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.010. Washington approves private schools based on their compliance with minimum requirements including length of school year and day; teacher certification; and curriculum. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.305.130(5); 28A.195.010; 28A.225.010(1)(a). The Superintendent of Public Instruction publishes a list of approved private schools in Washington State. See Private Schools, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, http://www.k12.wa.us/PrivateEd/PrivateSchools/default.aspx. A private school that has been approved by the Superintendent may also offer and administer an online school program. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.195.080. A student enrolled in a school or course run by an approved private school is attending an online school that is consistent with the laws of Washington.

      2. College or University

        Degree-granting institutions must obtain authorization from the