How Financial Aid for AmeriCorps Works

Guidelines of the AmeriCorps Award

The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award has recently been increased to $5,350 for a year of full-time service [source: U.S. Department of Education, Corporation for National and Community Service]. VISTA members have the option of receiving a cash award at the end of the service term, but those who wish to take the Segal Education Award instead of the $1,500 stipend must declare the option before the service term begins [source: AmeriCorps].

AmeriCorps welcomes part-time members, although there aren't as many options or opportunities for part-time positions. Part-time volunteers are still eligible to receive a portion of the education award, which is a prorated amount based on the time spent in service. Members are limited to two terms in the State and National and National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) programs, three terms in VISTA, or three terms amongst a combination of the programs. Incomplete and part-time service terms count towards the term limit, and AmeriCorps strictly enforces a maximum of two education awards per member [source: Students in Service, AmeriCorps].

Other benefits of the new laws are increased incentives for adults and retirees to volunteer. Senior citizens can now receive a $1,000 education award for 350 hours of service with a variety of registered sponsors [source: Corporation for National and Community Service]. If adults (over the age of 55) decide not to use the education award, the money can be transferred to an account for children, grandchildren and foster childrens' education expenses [source: Committee on Education and Labor, Corporation for National and Community Service]. There are no upper age limits for most AmeriCorps programs [source: AmeriCorps].

As mentioned earlier, there may be tax implications for using the award. The award qualifies as taxable income in the year(s) that funds are disbursed to a school or lender, and, depending on your income, might push you into a higher tax bracket, which means you'd pay more income tax [source: EnCorps]. Some politicians think the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award should be exempt from income tax and have proposed changes, but the law hasn't been changed yet. We'll describe other new and proposed changes to AmeriCorps-related laws in the next section.

Now that you understand how the AmeriCorps grants can benefit you, read on to see how government initiatives and the new laws we've mentioned have made that money available.