Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards -- named after Eli Segal, one of the pioneers of the national service movment and the first CEO of CNCS -- are a post-service benefit received by AmeriCorps members, including those supported through AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC.
Upon successful completion of a term of service, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which may be used only to pay college costs or to repay student loans. Members may earn up to two awards and have seven years to use this benefit. Since the inception of AmeriCorps in 1994, more than 800,000 alumni have earned more than $2.4 billion in education awards.
The award, which was designed to encourage AmeriCorps alumni to seek postsecondary education opportunities, serves as a powerful recruitment tool for individuals to join AmeriCorps. Studies show that AmeriCorps alumni, with their commitment to service, also make excellent students. A growing number of higher education institutions, in order to encourage AmeriCorps alumni to enroll in their institutions, are “matching” the education award with scholarships and / or academic credits.
Beginning with terms of service that were supported with 2010 funds, the amount of a full-time education award is equivalent to the maximum value of the Pell Grant for the award year in which the term of service is funded. Prior to this time, the amount of an education award had remained the same since the AmeriCorps program began. Because AmeriCorps State and National programs are funded on a different schedule than VISTA and NCCC, VISTA and NCCC members will be eligible for the new amount sooner than AmeriCorps State and National members. As a reference, the amount of a Pell grant for the 2012 fiscal year is $5,550. Members should check with their program or project sponsor to confirm the amount of the award for which they are eligible.
Because the maximum amount of the Pell Grant can change every year, the amount of a full-time award can change in the future. However, once a member earns an award, the dollar value of that award will not increase. For all programs, award amounts for part-time terms of service vary based upon the length of the required term of service. Payments made from Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards are considered taxable income in the year that the Corporation makes the payment to the school or loan holder. A member serving in a full-time term of service is required to complete the service within 12 months.
You are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award if you successfully complete your term of service in accordance with your member contract with one of the following approved AmeriCorps programs:
- AmeriCorps State and National
- AmeriCorps VISTA
- AmeriCorps NCCC
- Alternative to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Only AmeriCorps VISTA alumni who choose the stipend and have student loans may be eligible for up to 15% cancellation on certain types of loans. To determine what student loans may be eligible for cancellation and to receive forms, contact the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243. AmeriCorps VISTA members who choose the education award may not claim a partial cancellation.
Currently, the maximum numbers of terms that you can serve in each AmeriCorps program are:
- four for AmeriCorps State and National
- five for VISTAs
- two for NCCC
Full-time, half-time, reduced half-time, quarter time, and minimum time terms of service each count as one term of service.
Generally, if you are released for cause before completing your term of service and do not receive an education award, that term of service counts as one of your terms. The Trust does not make payments to anyone other than qualified schools and loan holders. See your financial aid counselor for information on how they handle disbursements and reimbursements.
If you withdraw from the school at which you have used the education award, the school may be required to refund the Trust. If any refund is owed, it is credited to your education award "account," and is subject to the award’s original expiration date (seven years from the date the award was earned). For general information on how withdrawing from school may affect your student financial aid, ask your financial aid counselor or refer to the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Handbook.
Under certain circumstances, you can use the education award to study outside the U.S. Contact the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677 for further information.
You have seven years to use the education award from the date of your completion of service. You can divide up your award and use portions of it at different times, as long as it is for authorized expenditures within the specified time period. You could, for example, apply a portion of it to existing qualified student loans, and save the remainder to pay for authorized college costs a few years down the road.
The Serve America Act allows for the transfer of AmeriCorps State and National and Silver Service education awards under certain conditions. Basically, the person who earned the award has to have been at least 55 years old when they began the term of service and the person to whom the award is transferred has to be the transferring individual’s child, grandchild, or foster child.
To transfer an award, an individual must:
- have earned an education award in an AmeriCorps State and National or a Silver Scholar term of service;
- have been at least 55 years of age before beginning the term of service for which the award is attached;
- have begun this term of service on or after October 1, 2009;
- transfer the award before the original expiration date;
- designate all or a portion of the unused award for the transfer; and
- complete the on-line forms authorizing the transfer, which includes providing information and certifying eligibility to make the transfer.
Remember, the IRS has determinded that payments made from an education award are considered to be included in a member's taxable income in the year the payment is made to the school or loan holder. Interest payments are also considered taxable. This increase in your income could affect your tax liability for that year. See the web page on tax implications for additional information.
- Current List of Institutions that Match the Education Award
- Potential Ways to Match the Award
- Using the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Institutions interested in participating in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Match Program should contact EdAwardMatch@cns.gov.