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Education Award FAQs

The National Service Trust is a Fund established by the National and Community Service Act of 1993.  The Fund pays for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and interest that accrues on qualified student loans for individuals who have successfully completed approved terms of national service.  The money is in an account in the U.S. Treasury and is invested in Treasury securities.

The Office of the National Service Trust  (frequently referred to as "the Trust") is the office within the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which is a federal agency that manages the various functions related to the education award and to investments in the National Service Trust Fund.

The following questions regarding Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, listed by category, are frequently asked of the Trust.

 

Education Award Amounts

What is the maximum amount of an education award?

The maximum amount of a full-time education award is equivalent to the maximum amount of the Pell Grant for the year for which the national service position was approved.  To determine the amount of each AmeriCorps education award, CNCS will use the amount of the Pell Grant as of the first day of the Federal fiscal year (i.e., October 1st) in the fiscal year in which that national service position is approved.

"Approval" of national service positions is managed differently for VISTA and NCCC members than for AmeriCorps State and National members. To confirm the award amount for which you are eligible, contact your program or project sponsor.

Can the amount of my award ever change?

The dollar amount of an award that you receive can never change. But, since the amount of a full-time education award corresponds to the amount of a Pell grant for that fiscal year and the amount of the Pell grant may change, the amount of the education award may also change. However, the dollar amounts of awards earned in previous years do not change.

How can I find out the dollar amount of the education award that I am earning?

You can ask your program or project sponsor for the amount of the education award for the position in which you are serving.

 

Education Award Values

What is the “value” of an education award and how is it determined?

The “value” of an education award is distinct from the “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 education award for a particular term of service may change, the value of the award for that term is constant.  The value of a full-time award is always “1.0”; the value of a half-time term 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.

The value of an education award received =

the amount of the award received ÷ the amount of a full-time award in the fiscal   year in which  the national service position was approved

* * * * *

FOR EXAMPLE: An individual completed a half-time term of service in 2016 and received an education award of $2,887.50.  The amount of a full-time award in 2016 was $5,775.00.  The value of this award is determined by the amount received divided by the amount of a full time award in the fiscal year.  The value of the award in this example is: $5,775 ÷ $2,887.50 which equals .5 (or ½ using fractions).

* * * * *

Is there a limit on the value of education awards that an individual is eligible to receive?

Yes.  An individual may not receive more than the aggregate (or total) value of two "(2.0)" full time awards. 

Do education awards that were received prior to the effective date of the Serve America Act count toward the maximum value of education awards an individual may receive?

Yes.  The national service laws, as amended by the Serve America Act, do not differentiate between awards received prior to the effective date and those received after the Act’s effective date.  All awards, including those earned in the past, will have values attributed to them for the purpose of tracking the aggregate value of awards a person has received.  Thus, if an individual has received two full-time education awards in the past, that person is not eligible to receive another award.

Does the rule on calculating the aggregate value of an education award apply to awards received in all three AmeriCorps programs—VISTA, NCCC, and State & National?

Yes.  An individual cannot receive more than the aggregate value of two full-time education awards regardless of in which of the three AmeriCorps programs the awards are earned.

May an individual who has already received the aggregate value of two full-time education awards serve another term in VISTA and receive a stipend for the service? 

Yes. A person who has received the value of two full-time education awards in VISTA may serve subsequent terms in VISTA up to the 5 one-year term limit for VISTA service.  The individual can receive cash stipends upon successful completion of each additional term. Members can contact their program or project sponsor to confirm eligibility to serve additional terms. 

What happens if a member wants to serve another term but receiving the entire amount of the award for that term would cause the person's aggregate value to exceed 2.0?

An individual may receive no more than the aggregate value of 2.0 full time education awards. A member may be eligible to receive a portion of the award amount for serving an additional term if the full amount would cause the person to exceed the value of 2.0. The following conditions apply:

  • The award dollar amount will be reduced (or discounted), if necessary, to correspond to the remaining value of education awards the individual is eligible to receive.
  • The member must agree to serve the entire term of service in order to receive the entire discounted amount. 
  • If a member is only eligible to receive a discounted amount, that dollar amount is determined using this formula: 
          2.0 - [minus] the aggregate value of education awards the person previously received 
x [times]
the dollar amount of a full-time education award in the year the national service position was approved

* * * * *

FOR EXAMPLE:  A member has received one half-time and one full-time education award.  The aggregate value of the two awards the person received is 1.5.  So, the member can receive up to the value of another .5 award upon successful completion of the entire term of service. The maximum discounted dollar amount of the education award this member can receive is .5 times the dollar amount of a full-time award approved for that fiscal year.  

* * * * *

In order to receive the entire discounted amount, the member must successfully complete the entire required term of service.

What happens if an individual who is eligible to receive only a discounted award amount does not complete the entire term of service but leaves early for compelling personal reasons?

For a member who is eligible only for a discounted award leaves service early, the same rules apply as they do for other pro-rated education award amounts.  The member:

  • must have served at least 15% of the required term and
  • must have left early for compelling personal reasons.

The pro-rated amount in this situation is based upon the discounted award amount.

FOR EXAMPLE: a member enrolls in a term of service offering an award amount of $5645.00. But the member is only eligible to receive a discounted award amount of $2000.00 based on the value of the education awards the member has already received.  The member agrees to serving the entire term in order to receive the discounted amount.  If the member exits the term for compelling personal circumstances after having served 50% of the normal required term, the member will receive 50% of the $2,000.00, which is $1,000.00.

If an individual is only eligible to receive an award for a discounted amount due to the value of education awards that he or she had received earlier, can the person enroll in VISTA, receive the discounted value of the education award, and receive a partial post-service stipend corresponding to the remainder of the term?

No.  A member may not receive both an education award and a post-service stipend for the same term of service.

If a member has already met the limit on the “aggregate value of two full-time education awards received”, can that person still enroll in another term?   What is a “zero value” education award? 

That member may be eligible to enroll in additional terms.  Members who have met the “aggregate value of 2.0 education awards” and are ineligible to earn additional education awards may be eligible to serve additional terms, as long as the member does not exceed the term limit for that type of AmeriCorps program.

That member can enroll in a term of service for an education award with a zero dollar value.  A zero value education award is an education award that has a monetery dollar amount of $0 and a corresponding value of 0.

Are forbearance and interest payments available for members serving in terms where they are earning “zero-value” education awards?

Yes.  Members who served in approved national service positions for “zero-value” education awards are eligible for forbearance of their student loans and the payment of all or a portion of the interest that accrued on qualified student loans while the member was serving.  The same conditions and restrictions apply to zero-value education awards as apply to education awards that have monetary value.

 

Using the Education Award

For what purposes can the education award be used?

The education award can be used in one of, or a combination of, the following ways:

  • To repay qualified student loans.
  • To pay all or part of the current education expenses to attend eligible institutions of higher education (including certain vocational schools) and educational programs approved under the G.I. Bills.

Which institutions are considered eligible institutions? 

Eligible institutions are institutions of higher education (including graduate and professional programs), as well as eligible vocational schools that currently participate in the Department of Education‘s Title IV student aid programs.

An institution is considered to be a “Title IV school”, if it has a Title IV Program Participation Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education making its students eligible for at least one of the federally-backed types of financial assistance (such as Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, National Direct Loans, and Federal Consolidated Loans).

Legislation enacted in 2009 expanded the use of the award to include enrolling in courses, programs of education, apprenticeships, and on job training programs that have been approved under the Montgomery and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bills. These are referred to as “G.I. Bill approved programs.” 

  • If a G.I. Bill approved educational program is offered by a Title IV school, any individual with an education award can use the award for that program because the school meets the Title IV requirement.

  • If a G.I. approved program is not offered by a Title IV educational institution, special rules apply. 

The next question explains which members can use their awards at these programs. 

To make sure that an institution is eligible, check with the financial aid office, business office, or veteran’s affairs office of the institution before making specific plans.

How can I determine if I can use my education award at a GI-approved program?

Veterans may use their education awards at programs of education, courses, apprenticeships, and on-job training programs that have been approved by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  Education awards can be used by non-veterans only during a narrow window which depends on when the member’s eligibility for an award was certified (approved) by authorized program staff.

Here are the special rules for using an award for programs of education, courses, apprenticeships, and on-job training that are approved under the G.I. Bill, but the institution offering the program is not a Title IV school.  These are referred to as GI-Only programs: 

  • An education award certified on December 23, 2011, and later, can be used for GI-Only programs only if the member is a veteran.
  • An education award certified between October 1, 2009, and December 22, 2011, can be used by both veterans and non-veterans for GI-Only programs.
  • No education award that was certified prior to October 1, 2009, can be used for a GI-Only program, even if the member is a veteran.

What types of loans can the education award repay?

Most postsecondary loans backed by the federal government are considered by law to be qualified for repayment with a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This includes both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.  Also, loans that are made by state agencies, including state colleges and universities are considered qualified.

Qualified loans include:

- Stafford Loans  -  Primary Care Loans  -  William D. Ford Direct Loans 
- Perkins Loans  -  Federal Consolidated Loans  -  Nursing Student Loans
- Supplemental Loans for Students  -  Health Education Assistance Loans
- Loans issued to AmeriCorps members by state agencies, including state institutions of higher education

What expenses are considered to be “current educational expenses?” 

Education expenses are considered “current” if they were incurred on or after the date the member began his or her term of AmeriCorps service.

Eligible educational expenses are based on:

  • The Cost of Attendance (COA) for a degree or certificate-granting program at a Title IV school.
  • Educational expenses for non-degree courses, such as continuing education courses offered by Title IV schools.
  • Educational expenses for enrollment in G.I. Bill approved courses or programs.

Each Title IV school’s financial aid office can determine a student’s COA based upon standard U.S. Department of Education guidance. The COA may include tuition, books and supplies, transportation, room and board, and other expenses.

For non-degree educational courses at Title IV schools, the appropriate administrative office that oversees the course—for example a Business Office for Continuing Education—can determine the expenses necessary for the course. Normally it includes tuition, books, and supplies.

For eligible individuals who are enrolled in G.I. Bill approved courses/programs, the school’s approved Certifying Official for VA courses determines the expenses based upon criteria developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is the period of time within which the Segal-AmeriCorps Education Award can be used?  

A member may use the education award for up to seven years after his or her service completion date. A Summer of Service member or recipient of a transferred award can use it for up to ten years from the original award earner’s service completion date.

In certain circumstances, the use period may be extended if the member was unavoidably prevented from using the award.  To be considered for an extension, a member must apply for an extension before the end of the use period.  See the section in these FAQs on Extensions for more information.

Do I have to make payments on my student loans while I’m serving? 

Members may be eligible for a temporary suspension of loan payments of their qualified student loans if they are enrolled into an approved term of national service. This temporary suspension is called “forbearance”. During a period of forbearance, the member will not have to make payments, although interest continues to accumulate on the loans.

If the loan was in forbearance, during the successfully completed term, CNCS will pay all or a portion of the interest that accrued on the qualified student loan during the term of service. This payment amount is in addition to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. 

Contact your loan holder to see if your student loan qualifies for forbearance.  If you are eligible for forbearance, it is approved by the holder of the loan, not by AmeriCorps or the National Service Trust. The Trust can only verify your service.

Can a school reimburse the member if he or she drops a course, withdraws, or fails to complete a period of enrollment resulting in the institution not being entitled to the full amount that was paid to it from the member’s education award?

No. Federal law specifically addresses refunds made from education awards for withdrawal or failing to complete an enrollment for which the education award was used. When a school certifies a student’s eligibility for a payment, it agrees that any refund will be returned to CNCS “consistent with the fair and equitable refund policies” required by the Higher Education Act.

Refunds for overpayments do not go to members. If the award has not expired, the refund will go back into the member’s account and will be available for future use.  If it has expired, it will be returned to the National Service Trust Fund.

Why was only half of the payment I requested sent to my school?

By law, education award payments for current educational expenses must be made “in 2 or more installments”, none of which exceeds 50% of the amount of the payment.  The interval between installments may not be less than one half of the period of enrollment, except as necessary to permit the second installment to be paid at the beginning of the semester, quarter, or similar period of enrollment.

CNCS makes two installments, one at the beginning of the enrollment period upon which the amount is based and the second at the middle of the enrollment period.  When the school approves the payment request, it indicates both the beginning date of the enrollment period and the midpoint date.

Payments are generally sent out by the U.S. Treasury every Friday. Exceptions are around holidays and the end of the year.

What can I do about a payment that I requested through My AmeriCorps several months ago and the payment has not been made?

You should check the status of your request in My AmeriCorps.  Please refer to the following chart which explains status comments in My AmeriCorps and refers you to the proper contacts.
 

Who to contact when you see this Status for a payment request in My AmeriCorps:                               

   STATUS       POINT OF CONTANT

   Accepted By Trust

       National Service Hotline (800) 942-2677   

   Closed by Trust

       National Service Hotline (800) 942-2677

   Pending Trust Action

       National Service Hotline (800) 942-2677

   Opened by Trust Officer

       National Service Hotline (800) 942-2677

   Accepted by Institution

       Your School or Loan Holder

   Denied by Institution

       Your School or Loan Holder

   Pending Institution Action

       Your School or Loan Holder

If the school or loan company denied the request, they are required to enter their reason. If the school or loan company has not yet acted upon the request, you should call them to inquire about the delay.

If a payment request has been made in My AmeriCorps and no action has been taken after 90 days and there is no indication that the delay is being worked upon by the Trust or the institution, the payment will be closed. The status of any payment requests in your account that are closed by the Trust will indicate the status “Closed by Trust’ and the reason for the cancellation.

Who can I contact if I have additional questions about the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award?  

You can contact the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677. The Hotline is staffed by customer service representatives from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Thursday. During high volume months---January, May, June, July, August, and September--the Hotline will be staffed on Fridays.

 

Transferring Awards

What rules apply to a member who earned an award and wants to transfer it?

In order to transfer an award, the transferring member must:

  • have been at least 55 years of age on the day the member commenced the term of service upon which the award is based;
  • have begun the term on or after October 1, 2009;
  • transfer the award before its expiration date;
  • have earned the award in an approved AmeriCorps State or National Program; and
  • ensure that CNCS receives the transfer request prior to the date the award expires.

To learn more details about the rules and regulations governing Transferred Award, see the Transfer Your Award web page.

What rules apply to the recipient of a transferred award? 

The recipient of a transferred award must:

  • be the child (which includes step-child), grandchild (which includes step-grandchild), or foster child of the transferring member;

  • be a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the US;

  • have been designated as the recipient; and

  • complete the required process for accepting the transferred award.

Can a person who has received an education award for service in AmeriCorps NCCC or VISTA transfer his or her award?

No.  The legislation authorizing award transfers, limits transfers to approved AmeriCorps State and National or Silver Scholar positions.  AmeriCorps alumni with awards from NCCC and VISTA service are not able to transfer their awards.

Am I able to transfer some of my award to a recipient now and then transfer more later if the person needs an additional amount for classes?

No. A member who is eligible to transfer an award can only make a single transfer for that particular award.  The transferring individual can transfer all or a portion of the award to a designated recipient. But, for each award, there can be only one transfer to one individual.

If I offer to transfer an award to an eligible recipient and the person rejects the offer, can I transfer it to another recipient?

If an eligible recipient rejects an offer of a transferred award in full, the transferring member may transfer the award to another eligible recipient (or to the same recipient who had rejected the offer earlier), if the award has not yet expired.  Once an actual transfer takes place, no additional transfers can be made from that award. 

Am I able to transfer half of an award to one child and the other half to another child?

No.  For each award, there can be only one transfer to one individual.  If you have more than one award, you may transfer all or part of each eligible award, one time, to one eligible recipient.

Why can’t I transfer an award that I earned before October 1, 2009?

October 1, 2009 was the effective date of the provision in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that allowed awards to be transferred.  Prior to that time, transfers were not authorized.

I’m thinking of transferring an award to my two-year-old granddaughter but it will expire before she gets a chance to use it.  Will she be able to get an extension of the period of time for using the award based on the fact that she was too young to use it?  

No. An individual who is unable to use an education award as a result of being too young will not be considered to be “unavoidably prevented” from using the award.

While there is no minimum age for a designated recipient, a member wishing to transfer an award should transfer it to a recipient who can make use of it before it expires.

Can an eligible member transfer an education award online using the My AmeriCorps portal?

Eligible members are able to transfer their education awards using the My AmeriCorps portal.  From a member’s Home Page, click on the “Create Transfer Request” option and follow the instructions.

Instead of transferring an award can a member with an award simply create a request to have a payment sent from the member’s own education award account to pay for the relative’s educational expenses or loan payment? 

No.  A transfer cannot be made using the payment process. Individuals who have earned education awards cannot make payments from their awards for anyone’s educational expenses or student loans other than their own.

The only way a member can have any portion of their education award transferred to another person is through the official award transfer process. The transfer must meet all of the conditions that apply to transfers.

A transfer begins with an offer being made by an eligible transferring individual to an eligible recipient using the Request for Transfer process.  The recipient must accept the offer for the transfer to be complete.  Once the transfer is complete, the recipient is able to use the transferred funds to make payments to qualified and eligible institutions.

 

Taxes

Is the education award taxable?

Yes.  The education award is considered taxable income in the year it is used.  For example:  If, in 2017, a person uses all or part of an education award for college or uses the award to repay qualified student loans or even uses the award for both purposes, the total amount paid from the education award in 2017 must be included as taxable income for that year.  CNCS does not withhold taxes from the award.

By the end of January each year, CNCS sends a 1099 MISC Form to all AmeriCorps members for whom payments have been made totaling $600.00 or more during the previous year.  These include both payments from education awards and payments of interest that accrued while the person was serving.  The 1099 MISC Form reflects the amount that CNCS reports as taxable miscellaneous income to the IRS.

What is the difference between a W2 form and a 1099 form?

W-2s are used to report to the IRS that portion of the living allowance or stipend that is taxable.  Their purpose is not for reporting education award payment or reporting interest payments. 

The IRS Form 1099 MISC is used to report to the IRS the amounts of the education award and interest payments that were made during the tax year.

 

My AmeriCorps and Your Online Education Award Account

Do I have to use the on-line system, My AmeriCorps, to request payments?

In order to minimize a delay in the processing of Segal AmeriCorps Education Award payments, individuals must request payments electronically using the on-line system, My AmeriCorps.  This is a fast, secure, and user-friendly method to request that a payment be made from your account to qualified schools and loan holders. 

It also provides an electronic record of payments requested and made and their current status.

CNCS cannot guarantee the prompt processing of payments when paper forms are used.  Payments requested by paper could take up to six months or more to process and they are less secure.

It is fast and easy to access your account in My AmeriCorps.  To register in My AmeriCorps or to log into your My AmeriCorps account, go to https://my.americorps.gov/mp/login.do.

Does my account in My AmeriCorps show me the value of education awards that I have already earned?

Yes.  From your Home Page, click on My Education Award in the box on the left.  In the next screen, under Account Statement – Award Information, the “Award Value” of each education award received is listed in the table.

Also, when a program is enrolling an individual into a position, the enrollment screen will show the aggregate value of awards already earned.  A statement similar to this will appear on the screen that the program is using:         

This member has served 2 previous term of service, earning the value of “1.5”
full-time education awards out of a maximum possible two full-time awards (2.0).

 

Extensions

For what reasons may a request for an extension to the seven- or ten-year “use period” be approved?

CNCS may grant an application for an extension under the following circumstances:

During an award's use period, the individual served a subsequent term of service in another approved national service position and that subsequent term of service fell within the use period of the previous award.

During an award’s use period the individual served in Peace Corps or the military or in a VISTA term where a stipend, and not an education award, was earned.

The individual was unavoidably prevented from using the education award during the award’s use period.  Examples of situations that may warrant an extension under this category include, but are not limited to:

  • The individual’s serious illness or disability
  • The death or serious illness or disability of someone in the individual’s immediate family (mother, father, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild)
  • The destruction or inaccessibility of important service records maintained by the program
  • Natural disasters, such as floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes

What criteria must exist in order for the request to be considered? 

In addition to providing the reason for the extension,

  • the award must have an unspent balance;
  • the reason for the extension occurred during the use period of the subject education award;
  • the award holder must apply for an extension in writing; the application must be submitted to CNCS prior to the date the award expires;
  • there was no previous extension of the award for any reason.  Generally, only one extension is allowed per award; and
  • the individual must provide documentation to support the reason, unless it is for having served in another approved term of national service.  Documentation can include items such as death certificates and letters from doctors. 

 For what length of time can an award be extended? 

For serving subsequent approved terms of national service, as well as Peace Corps, military, or VISTA/stipend service:  the length of the extension will be equivalent to the time period of the subsequent service.

For being unavoidably prevented from using the award:  the length of the extension will be one year.

Generally, CNCS will not grant extensions to the use period that result in a total use period longer than 10 years.  However, subsequent terms of national service, VISTA service, military service and Peace Corps service are exceptions to this general rule.  (This 10-year limit does not apply to extensions for transferred awards.)

What are some examples of reasons that would not meet the criteria and conditions?

  • The person was incarcerated as a result of a conviction of a criminal offense.
  • The individual was employed, even if the position was with a non-profit community service organization.
  • The individual had a busy 7-year period with many activities, didn’t get around to using the award, and is now ready to use it.
  • The individual forgot to use the award or lost it.
  • The individual claims that he or she did not receive the award expiration notice from CNCS.
  • The individual served another term or was seriously ill during a time that did not fall within the use period of the previous award.
  • The application for an extension was not submitted to the National Service Trust until after the award’s expiration date.
  • The birth of a child.
  • The recipient of a transferred award requests an extension based upon the fact that he or she was too young to use the award. 
     

Can I mail in a request for an extension or do I have to use the online system, My AmeriCorps

You are strongly encouraged to use the online system to request an extension.  Those requests are processed faster and there will be no dispute whether or when the request was submitted by the member—a critical point in determining timely submission.  You can attach supporting documents to your online request and there will always be a record of the actions that were taken.

However, you may also mail, fax, or email a request to the Trust, along with supporting documents.  It must be submitted to the Trust prior to your award’s expiration date and there must be a record of the date it was submitted, such as a postmark.  Requests submitted through My AmeriCorps automatically track the submission date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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