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Each year, about 75,000 Americans participate in AmeriCorps and serve at nonprofits, schools and public agencies across the U.S. Along with the satisfaction of strengthening their communities, these volunteers receive financial help with their student loans or tuition costs. While there’s no AmeriCorps student loan forgiveness, the Segal AmeriCorps Education award of $6,345 can be used to pay off federal student debt.
If you’re considering a public service career, read on to find out more about AmeriCorps and student loans. We’ll try to answer the following questions:
- How can AmeriCorps help repay student loans?
- What can you use AmeriCorps education awards for?
- What AmeriCorps programs are available?
- What’s it like to serve in AmeriCorps jobs?
- What should you know before signing up?
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.
If you successfully complete a term of service, you will 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.
So, how much is the AmeriCorps education award? As of 2020, the federal Pell Grant (and thus, the AmeriCorps education award) is worth $6,345.
AmeriCorps members can earn up to two education awards for their service. Besides the AmeriCorps education award, full-time AmeriCorps members get a modest living allowance and health insurance.
In addition, AmeriCorps members are eligible for student loan forbearance. This means you can postpone your student loan payments while you serve. Although this can provide some financial relief, keep in mind that your loans still accrue interest during a period of forbearance.
If you have already graduated from school, you can use the Segal AmeriCorps education award 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, including 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. So whether you use it to repay student loans or pay for current college expenses, it will be 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.
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 18 (some programs accept 16- and 17-year-olds).
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.
Taylor Vickery of Orlando, Fla., 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,” Vickery said. “I helped the school completely transform their volunteer process.”
“The second year, I served as a reading initiatives coordinator focused on helping four-year-olds,” she added. “I went into the community to find volunteers to read with a preschool student for 30 minutes once a week.”
Vickery said she felt a strong calling towards public service, and she found that AmeriCorps helped her fulfill that passion.
“Military life was never for me, but AmeriCorps [allows] me to serve my country in a meaningful way,” said Vickery. “I am able to be part of a federal government program that lifts people out of poverty.”
And because of her service, Vickery noted that she could 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,” said Vickery. “Thanks to AmeriCorps, I do not have that fear.”
“I did receive the education award for two years of service, which will pay off my student loans,” she added. “It’s an amazing feeling to graduate and not have to worry about how I’ll pay off debt on a nonprofit salary.”
While Vickery loved her time with AmeriCorps, she does caution that it is a challenging and trying experience.
“Know that AmeriCorps is a sacrifice,” advised Vickery. “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.”
If you are interested in AmeriCorps jobs, you can find out more and apply via the AmeriCorps site.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of January 4, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
5 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.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 12/07/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.99% to 8.56% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.