Overview of the AmeriCorps Education Award
AmeriCorps members have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of people in the communities they serve as well as on their own. One of the ways that AmeriCorps can impact your life is to help you reach your goals with an education award. When you successfully complete your service, you will receive an education award that can be used to pay for higher education or training or to repay qualified student loans.
To qualify for an education award, you must successfully complete the required "term of service" for the program in which you participate—either Americorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), or one of the other hundreds of programs in the AmeriCorps network. AmeriCorps*VISTA members may choose a cash payment of $100.00 per month of service instead of the education award. All other AmeriCorps members are eligible only for the education award.
How You Can Use Your Education Award
You can use your education award in the following ways:
- To repay qualified existing or future student loans;
- To pay all or part of the cost of attending a qualified institution of higher education (including certain vocational programs); or
- To pay expenses while participating in an approved school-to-work program.
The Amount of Your Education Award
The amount of your award depends upon whether your term of service is full-time or part-time.
Please Note: The IRS has determined that education awards are subject to income taxes in the year they are used.
Full-time ($4,725.00). AmeriCorps members who successfully serve at least 1,700 hours during a period of nine months to one year are eligible to receive an award of $4,725.00. AmeriCorps*VISTA members earn a $4,725.00 education award by serving full-time for one year.
Part-time ($2362.50) AmeriCorps members who successfully serve at least 900 hours of service during a period of up to two years are eligible to receive an award of $2,362.50.
Reduced Part-time (proportional to number of hours served). Individuals who serve as AmeriCorps members in a special program, such as a program offered during the summer, may be eligible for an education award of a value proportional to the number of hours served. For example, many summer programs offer education awards of $1,000.
Earning More than One Education Award
AmeriCorps members can receive up to two education awards. Even if you complete more than two terms of service, you may not receive more than two awards, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, or reduced terms of service.
Specific Uses of the Education Award
You can divide up your award and use it any way you want, as long as it is for authorized expenditures. For example, you could apply a portion of your award to existing qualified student loans and save the remainder to pay for authorized college costs within the next seven years. Your education award is not transferable to a relative or any other individual under any circumstance.
When the Education Award Can Be Used
You must use your education award within seven years of the completion of your service, and you must have a high school diploma or equivalent at the time you use it. You may apply for an extension if, during the seven-year period, you perform another term of service in an approved AmeriCorps position or if you were unavoidably prevented from using the award.
Most postsecondary loans that are backed by the federal government are qualified for repayment with an AmeriCorps education award. These include Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, William D. Ford Direct Loans, Federal Consolidated Loans, Supplemental Loans for Students, Primary Care Loans, Nursing Student Loans, Health Education Assistance Loans, and loans issued to AmeriCorps members by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. Your lender should be able to tell you if your loan is qualified.
The education award can be used at most institutions of higher education (including graduate and professional programs), as well as some vocational schools. An institution is considered qualified for the education award if it has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education whereby its students are eligible for at least one of the federally backed forms of financial assistance, such as Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, National Direct Loans, and Federal Consolidated Loans. If in doubt, check with the institution’s financial aid office prior to making definite plans.