6 Ways AmeriCorps Increases College Access and Affordability

By Sandy Scott

An AmeriCorps member serving as a college coach.

Higher education is the single-most important investment that Americans can make in their future, increasing their potential earnings and lowering their risk of unemployment.

Despite these benefits, the cost of attaining this education has skyrocketed over the past few decades, putting college out of reach for too many low- and middle-income families.

As you get ready to hear from the President, we want to share a refresher on how AmeriCorps helps those who are pursuing a college education. 

1.   AmeriCorps members earn money for college – lots of it.   

AmeriCorps is based on a simple idea. In return for serving your country, you gain educational opportunity. AmeriCorps members who complete their service earn a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that can be used to pay for college or pay back student loans.  For national service positions approved in fiscal year 2014, a full-time education award is worth $5,645.  In the last 20 years, more than 830,000 AmeriCorps members have earned $2.7 billion in education awards. 

 2.   While they serve, AmeriCorps members can postpone loan payments and get interest payments covered.

AmeriCorps members may be eligible to temporarily postpone payment of their student loans – an action called forbearance.  While your loan is in forbearance, interest continues to accrue. However, If you complete your term of service, CNCS will pay all or a portion of the interest that accrued during your AmeriCorps term. Since 1994, CNCS has made more than $70 million in interest forbearance payments.

 3.   Hundreds of AmeriCorps members serve as college coaches, helping students achieve their dreams of higher education.

Through programs like Admission Possible, College Advising Corps, College Access Now, Campus Compact, AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches, and others, hundreds of AmeriCorps members across the country are serving as “near-peer” mentors who help high school students select courses, prepare college applications, apply for financial aid, and take other steps to pursue college.  Many of these students are the first in their family to attend college.

4.   More than 130 colleges match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, stretching your college dollar.

Colleges and universities across the country actively recruit talented AmeriCorps alumni for their reputation of perseverance, drive, and proven active citizenship. Many of these institutions offer a variety of incentives such as service scholarships or matching tuition funding to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.  See a list of matching institutions here.

5.   Many colleges offer AmeriCorps programs on their campuses. 

More than 150 colleges across the U.S. operate AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps VISTA programs – engaging nearly 10,000 AmeriCorps members each year.  Many of these members are current college students who are enhancing their own education as they meet community need by serving as mentors, tutors, health workers, and more. 

 6.   As an AmeriCorps alum, you may qualify for a loan forgiveness programs or repayment plans.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 created two new programs: a new Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and a new Income-Based Repayment plan for the repayment of federal loans. The new Income-Based Repayment plan helps to make repaying education loans more affordable for low-income borrowers, such as an AmeriCorps member living on a stipend.  AmeriCorps service is also recognized as equivalent to a public service job for the purposes of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  Learn more from our FAQ.

First Lady Michelle Obama has said, “No matter where you come from or how much money your family has, I want you to know that you can succeed in college, and get your degree, and then go on to build an incredible life for yourself.”   We couldn’t agree more, and are proud to help open the doors of college to hundreds of thousands of Americans. 

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