AmeriCorps service brings all kinds of rewards — an ability to directly help others, a sense of fellowship and belonging, a meaningful line of experience on your resume or c.v. and many other rewards that are mostly of the intrinsic variety. But one major extrinsic benefit worth mentioning is the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
The award is named after Eli Segal, a pioneer of national service and the first CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The office of the National Service Trust is the office within CNCS that administers the education award.
Regardless of the number of hours or length of time serving, AmeriCorps members receive an award at the end of their service term within a 12-month period. You can see on this graph below for the award figures for the current term of service (beginning in 2019). The amounts change from year to year, but the current rates can provide a good guidepost.
Segal AmeriCorps Education Award amounts for national service positions approved for 2019-20)
|Participation Type||Number of Hours||Award Amount|
|Minimal Time & Summer Assoc.||300||$1,289.95|
Additionally, an education award can be earned every term that an AmeriCorps member serves, up to the aggregate value of two full-time awards. CNCS recommends talking to your program manager to determine the exact amount you can earn for your award.
How Can You Use the Education Award?
Of course, you can use the education award to pay for tuition for associate, undergraduate or graduate studies at a qualified school. There are many other ways it can be used, too, though:
-Books, college fees and other educational necessities
-Online courses at approved college and university programs
-Purchase a laptop that you will use in school (note that the computer would have to be purchased through the college — for example, from a technology lease-to-own program)
-Pay off existing student loans (just make sure these are qualified federal loans rather than private bank loans)
-A combination of current educational expenses and repay qualified student loans
-Study-abroad program expenses
-Coursework in a specialized skill – coding, EMT training, sign language certification, videography and photography, certain teaching certifications and many other programs, often offered at community colleges
-Fees associated with an apprenticeship program
-If you are 55 or older and not planning to continue your education, you can transfer the education award to your child, stepchild, foster child or grandchild for any and all of these educational expenses, too. If you transfer the award, that person has 10 years from date you completed your service to use it. (Also, you can only transfer once to one person, but you don’t have to transfer the whole thing — so in theory, you might be able to take a class with your child or grandchild for free!)
Plus, some colleges and universities even will match your AmeriCorps Education Award. In Minnesota, this includes the University of Minnesota – Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Augsburg College and Concordia University-St. Paul. No industry-wide standard exists for matching awards; some schools match the amount of the education award, and some schools offer scholarships in set amounts that remain constant regardless of the amount of education award earned. Some institutions offer the scholarships on a continuing basis, while others offer one-time-only awards. Check with your college or university to learn their policy and how they apply the matching funds.
More Good News for Members Repaying Student Loans
The CNCS National Service Trust will pay all or a portion of the interest that accrues on your qualified loan during your service. It can only make an interest payment after you have successfully completed a term of service and have earned an education award. The portion the Trust pays is determined by the type of service (full-time, part-time) and the length of service. Members who serve in a full-time service position, complete the term of service within 12 months and receive an education award will have 100% of the interest paid that accrued during service.
Interest payments are made in addition to education award payments; they are not subtracted from your education award amount.
What Rules Apply to the Education Award?
First, you must use the award within seven years. If you are a grandparent who intends to give a younger grandchild your award, that means that the grandchild probably will be at least 11 years old at the time of your service term so that they can use it within the seven years.
One downside of the AmeriCorps education award? The education award, unlike most other forms of scholarships and fellowships, is fully taxable in your federal taxes in the year it is redeemed. Keep this in mind as you prepare your federal income taxes — and if you live in Minnesota, know that the award isn’t taxed by the state. (Read more information about the education award and tax implications.)
Sources for This Article Include:
Corporation for National Service and Community Service Website: FAQs for the Education Awardand How to Use Your Education Award
The AmeriCorps Alumni Website: Using Your Segal Education Award
Legacy Conservation Alumni Website: Non-traditional Ways to Use Your Education Award
Do you want to learn how to serve in AmeriCorps? View the list of programs offering a variety of positions, term lengths and hours.