Each year, AmeriCorps deploys 75,000 Americans to serve at nonprofits, schools, and public agencies across the country. These dedicated people help tackle major issues like illiteracy, economic development, and public safety.
While workers get the satisfaction of strengthening their communities, at the end of their AmeriCorps jobs they also get a stipend to help with their tuition or student loans, empowering them to start their career with minimal debt.
If you’re considering a public service career, find out more about the AmeriCorps program and whether or not it’s for you.
What is AmeriCorps?
AmeriCorps members can serve in full- or part-time positions for terms of three to 12 months. While the AmeriCorps salary is small, those who participate contribute in a meaningful way to the benefit of their community.
Many AmeriCorps members are students taking a gap year — the year between graduating high school and attending college — but that is not a necessity. Though specific requirements vary by assignment, AmeriCorps members can usually be any age as long as they are over 17.
There are three different programs within AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC.
AmeriCorps State and National provides local services directly to the community, working closely with established nonprofits and public agencies who know the neighborhoods and the needs of the people who live there. Members can serve during times of disaster, such as after a hurricane, helping a community access emergency services.
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) focuses on fighting poverty. VISTA members work with one agency or nonprofit on a specific program, providing support so the organization can increase its capacity and help more people.
Finally, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) members complete service projects in designated regions, such as building housing for low-income residents. NCCC members travel throughout the region completing their projects, and in some paths, work directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in times of crisis.
What are the benefits of AmeriCorps jobs?
Working with AmeriCorps is not an easy assignment. It’s an immense sacrifice that requires dedication and perseverance. But if you can handle the demands of the service year, there are benefits to completing your term.
Full-time AmeriCorps members get a modest living allowance and health insurance. In addition, AmeriCorps members are eligible for student loan forbearance. If you successfully complete a term of service, you will also receive an AmeriCorps stipend in the form of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
The education award is tied to the maximum amount of the federal Pell Grant, so the exact value can change from year to year. As of 2016, the federal Pell Grant (and thus, the education award) is worth $5,775.
AmeriCorps members can earn up to two education awards for their service.
How can you use the education award?
If you have already graduated from school, you can use the money to pay for federal student loans or student loans offered by a state agency. All federal loans, except for Parent PLUS loans, are eligible. Unfortunately, you cannot use the funds to repay private loans.
For those currently in school or attending school in the future, you can use your education award to pay your tuition at an eligible college. Eligible institutions participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IV student aid programs, which include most post-secondary colleges and technical schools.
You can also use the education award to pay for school expenses, such as those related to the cost of attendance. Those costs include books, supplies, and room and board.
After completing your service term, you have seven years to use your education award. However, in extenuating circumstances, that period can be extended.
Unlike many other scholarships, the education award is considered taxable as income by the federal government. Whether you use it to repay student loans or pay for current college expenses, it is subject to federal tax.
To receive the education award, you must fully complete your term of service. If you drop out of AmeriCorps before completion, you are ineligible to receive the award.
What’s it like to serve in AmeriCorps jobs?
Taylor Vickery of Orlando, Florida has worked with AmeriCorps VISTA for 22 months. When she first applied, she wasn’t really sure what AmeriCorps was, but has since fallen in love with the program and the impact it has made on the local community.
“The first year, I was a volunteer coordinator with a local high school. I helped the school completely transform their volunteer process,” says Vickery.
“The second year, I served as a reading initiatives coordinator focused on helping four-year-olds. I went into the community to find volunteers to read with a preschool student for 30 minutes once a week,” she adds.
Vickery feels a strong calling towards public service, and she finds that AmeriCorps has helped her fulfill that passion.
“Military life was never for me, but AmeriCorps is allowing me to serve my country in a meaningful way. I am able to be part of a federal government program that lifts people out of poverty,” says Vickery.
And because of her service, Vickery can benefit from a four-year degree without worrying about student loan debt.
“When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, many of my classmates had crippling fear of student loans. Thanks to AmeriCorps, I do not have that fear,” says Vickery.
“I did receive the education award for two years of service, which will pay off my student loans. It’s an amazing feeling to graduate and not have to worry about how I’ll pay off debt on a nonprofit salary.”
What you should know before signing up
While Vickery loved her time with AmeriCorps, she does caution that it is a challenging and trying experience.
“Know that AmeriCorps is a sacrifice. You will have to budget because you are paid so little. There will be days where all you want to do is quit. But nothing beats the rewards you will feel when you finish your year of service. Even if you can’t see it at first, you are making a difference in people’s lives,” says Vickery.
If you are interested in AmeriCorps jobs, you can find out more and apply via the AmeriCorps site.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.23% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
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