Amount, Eligibility, and Limitations of Education Awards
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 national service is approved. Prior to fiscal year 2010, the amount of an education award had remained the same since the AmeriCorps program began.
Since the 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.
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 full-time education award for national positions approved in the 2014 fiscal year (which runs from October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014) is $5,645.
Members should check with their program or project sponsor to confirm the amount of the award for which they are eligible.
Eligibility to Receive an Award
You are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award if you successfully complete a term of service with one of the following approved AmeriCorps programs in accordance with your member contract:
- AmeriCorps State and National Program
- AmeriCorps VISTA Program
- AmeriCorps NCCC Program
There are limitations on both the number of terms an individual can serve in each of the three programs and limits on the value of education awards a person can receive. A member serving in a full-time term of service is required to complete the service within 12 months.
Special Option for VISTA Members
Limits on the Number of Terms You Can Serve
- four terms for AmeriCorps State and National programs
- five one-year terms for VISTA programs
- two terms for NCCC programs
For AmeriCorps State and National programs, each term of service for which an individual earned any education award counts as one term of service in computing the limits on the term limitations. This includes terms for which a member earned a full-time, half-time, and any other type of part-time or prorated education award. A pro-rated education award is an award that may be earned when an individual, for reasons beyond his or her control, cannot complete the entire service period.
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.
Limit on the Value of Education Awards You Can Receive
There is a limit on the value of education awards that an individual is allowed to receive. By law, an individual may not receive more than the aggregate (or total) value of two full time education awards.
The "value" of an education award is distinct from the dollar "amount" of an award. The value of an education award refers to the service opportunity offered by a particular term of service, such as full-time, half-time, and summer terms of service. While the dollar amount of an award for a particular term of service may change over time, the value of that award remains constant. The value of a full-time award is always "1.0"; the value of a half-time award is always ".5".
The value of every education award received is calculated by taking the actual amount of the education award received for the service and dividing it by the amount of a full-time award in the fiscal year in which the national service position was approved.
Current and former AmeriCorps members can keep track of the value of education awards they have received through their accounts in the online system, My AmeriCorps. In their accounts, each award they have earned shows both the award amount and the award value.
Education Award Payments
You have seven years to use the education award from the date of your completion of AmeriCorps 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 Trust cannot 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.
See the web page called Using Your Education Award for an explanation of the types of eligible schools and educational programs where your education award can be used, the types of current educational expenses for which it can be used, and the types of qualified students loans you can use your award to repay. A link to the Using Your Education Award page is at the bottom of this page.
If you withdraw from the school where 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 website at http://studentaid.ed.gov.
Under certain circumstances, you can use the education award to study outside the U.S. See the web page on Using your Education Award for further information. You may also contact the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677 if you have questions.
The Serve America Act allows for the transfer of AmeriCorps State and National and Silver Service education awards under specific conditions which are stated in the Act. The individuals who have earned the awards have to have been at least 55 years old when they began their terms of service and each person to whom an award is transferred has to be the transferring individual’s child (including step-child), grandchild (including step-grandchild), or foster child.
Each award can be transferred only once. The entire unspent balance can be transferred or a portion of the balance can be transferred.
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 the subject award;
- 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 forms authorizing the transfer, which includes providing information and certifying eligibility to make the transfer.
For further information on transfers, see the Transferring Awards section in the Frequently Asked Questions page (link is below).
The IRS has determined 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 income. This increase in your income could affect your tax liability for that year. See the link to the web page called Tax Implications, below, for additional information.
Additional Information for Members and Schools & Loan Holders
AmeriCorps Members and Alumni can read more about education award related topics by going to these pages:
- Using your Segal AmeriCorps Education Award - discusses the types of schools and educational programs for which you can use your award, the types of expenses that your award may cover, the types of loans you can repay with your award, and how to use the online payment system, My AmeriCorps, to request a payment
- Tax Implications - explains that payments need to be included as income when you submit your returns and suggests IRS publications one educational expenses and student loan interest that may help minimize your tax burden.
- Postponing Student Loan Payments and Getting Interest Paid - explains the process for postponing the repayment of qualified student loans while you are serving and how to have the Trust pay a portion of the interest that accrued on your qualified loans while you were serving.
- Frequently Asked Questions - answers common questions that are asked by members about education awards--award amounts, award values, making payments, transferring awards, taxes, extensions, and using My AmeriCorps.
Eligible Educational Institutions and Holders of Qualified Student Loans can read about processing education award payments online by going to this web page:
- How Institutions Process Education Award Payments - explains how institutions can process education award payments faster, easier, and more securely online.