These are the general terms of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. Items that changed under the Serve America Act are noted.

Disbursement to Schools

When you are sending Education Award funds to a school, the National Service Trust by law must send it in two equal disbursements: The first is immediate and the second gets sent at the middle of the enrollment period. In other words, if you request $1,000 from your Education Award to be sent to your school, $500 will be sent when you request it. The school will receive the second $500 midway through the term or semester.

Why this is important to know: If money due to the school from your Education Award is due at the start of classes and doesn't arrive until later, you may rack up late payment charges. Work with your school to let them know that the funds are coming from an AmeriCorps Education Award account and are disbursed in this manner.

Another strategy: If you are planning to use $1,000 per semester for two semesters, you might want to request $2,000 from your award to be sent to the school. That way, $1,000 arrives in time for the first semester to begin, and the second $1,000 is deposited into your account prior to the beginning of the second semester.

Using the award for other educational expenses: Understanding how the disbursement works is also important to know if you are using the award to purchase a computer or other educational equipment allowable under "cost of attendance." Half of the funds you request won't arrive until several weeks after classes begin, so plan accordingly!

A single disbursement on loans: If you are using your award to pay on student loans, the National Service Trust will send the full amount you request -- and not break the disbursement into smaller payments.

Where to find the law: You can find the legal language regarding disbursement of national service Education Awards.

Multiple Terms

AmeriCorps VISTA and NCCC members can enroll in multiple terms of service that add up to the value of two full-time Education Awards. In other words, you can blend summer, part-time, and full-time service positions and receive awards as long as the combined service terms don't exceed two full terms. (You can also serve without receiving an Education Award up to a maximum number of terms outlined below.)

NOTE: Changes in the amount of the award will not grant you additional eligibility. If you received two full-time education awards worth $5,815, you cannot serve additional terms even though the amount has increased.

Considerations

  • If you wish to enroll in a new term that exceeds your eligibility, you can do so and receive a pro-rated award. The amount of the award will be determined by the full-time award amounts in the years you served and will bring your total awards to the amount of two full-time awards.
  • If you exit a term "for cause" and do not receive an award, it counts as term of eligibility. For example, if you leave midway through a full-time service term and don't receive an award, you lose a full-time term of future eligibility. The same is true with part-time and summer service terms.
  • If you receive full or partial education awards from a parent, grandparent, or foster parent, the amount you receive will diminish your ability to receive awards in the future through your own service. Learn more in Transferability below.

Maximum Number of Terms

In blending summer, part-time, and full-time terms, you can serve a maximum:

  • Four terms for AmeriCorps State and National programs
  • Five one-year terms for VISTA programs
  • No limit on the number of total terms for NCCC programs, but members may not serve more than two consecutive NCCC terms without a break in service of at least 10 months before serving again

If you max out the number of terms you serve with one stream of service, you can start a new term with another AmeriCorps program and receive additional awards -- as long as you have not yet reached the full value of two full-time awards. You can also serve terms (and elect not to receive an award) up to the limits shown above.

Determination of a Term

Determination of a term is based on the amount of an award received for a service term divided by the amount of a full-time award in the year service was performed. In other words, when you complete a full-time year, you use a year of eligibility. It doesn't matter if you received a $4,725 or $5,350 or $5,550 award, it still counts as a full term.

If you serve a part-time term or receive a pro-rated award, divide the amount of your award by the amount of a full-time award for that year. For example, if your half-time VISTA was $2,775, divide that amount by $5,550, and you arrive at .5. This means you have used half of a full term of eligibility or a quarter of your total eligibility.

NOTE: Changes in the amount of the award will not grant you additional eligibility. If you received two $4,725 awards, you cannot serve additional terms even though the amount has increased.

Access Funds

After you successfully complete your AmeriCorps service term, the National Service Trust will deposit the amount of your Education Award into your MyAmeriCorps Portal account. This might take a few weeks.

From your online account, you can send funds to a school or lender (you cannot send Education Award funds to yourself). Make sure you have your account numbers and mailing addresses handy for your school or lender when you are preparing to send funds. If you use online banking and bill pay, the process will seem familiar.

Log in to My AmeriCorps. If you are a current or former member and cannot access MyAmeriCorps Portal, learn more about AmeriCorps and sign up for an account. VISTA members must attend a PSO before they can sign up for the online payment system. The funds, however, will not be deposited into your account until after your successful completion of service. You can also use your MyAmeriCorps Portal to request forbearance on your federal student loans while you are serving.

If you are having problems accessing your MyAmeriCorps Portal account, ask your national service program staff to help you or call the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677.

Remember: You don’t need to use all your Education Award funds at once. You have seven years from when you finish service to spend it.

How payments are disbursed to schools: When you send Education Award funds to a school, the money will arrive in two payments (the second midway through the term or semester). Learn more in Dirsbursements to Schools above.

Seven Years to Use Education Award

By law, you have seven years after completing service to use your Education Award. The period begins the date you complete your term of service in AmeriCorps. This time limit may be extended if certain circumstances have prevented you from using your Education Award during this time period.

Circumstances may include:

  • Performing another term of service in AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps during the seven year period; or
  • Being unavoidably prevented from using the award during the seven-year period. Examples of unavoidable situations which may warrant extensions include serious illness or disability, military service, death of a family member, or important service records being destroyed or inaccessible by the program. Any period of incarceration as a result of a conviction of a criminal offense will not be considered an unavoidable situation.

You must request the extension in writing before the end of the seven-year period. The request can be either by mail or can be made electronically. A notice will be mailed to all members prior to the end of their seven-year period reminding them of the expiration of their awards.

For further information on how to request this extension, contact the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677.

Transferability

Under the Serve America Act, AmeriCorps members who begin on or after October 1, 2009 and are 55 or older when commencing service can give their Education Award to a child, step child, grandchild, step grandchild or foster child.

This provides an excellent incentive for members who neither wish to return to school nor have loan balances to repay. The child would then have 10 years to use the award. To receive the award, the child must meet citizenship requirements for AmeriCorps. (The benefit does not apply to VISTAs.)
 
You can transfer your award directly from your My AmeriCorps account.
 
A transferred award is treated much like a standard Education Award with a few exceptions.
 
  • The beneficiary of the award has 10 years to use the award (not seven) from the date when the transferring individual completes a service term.
  • The award's beneficiary cannot put loans into national service forbearance while the transferring individual is serving.
  • The award's beneficiary can use the award at a Title IV school but NOT a non-Title IV school that is on the approved list of learning institutions for the G.I. Bill. [This policy differs from the traditional Education Award.]

General Considerations

  • You can transfer the award to a child, grandchild, or foster child. You CANNOT transfer it to other family members, mentored children, or scholarship funds.
  • The transferring and designated individual are required to provide a certification (under a penalty of law) that each meets the criteria to give or receive a transferred award.
  • When an Education Award is transferred, it affects the transferring and designated individual’s ability to receive future awards. For example, if a parent gives her child two full-time awards, neither parent nor child will be able to receive awards in the future.

Considerations for Individuals Giving Away the Award

  • You can transfer one award one time to one designated individual. If you serve multiple terms, you can designate different awards to different individuals. In general, you cannot re-transfer an award after selecting someone to receive it. There are two exceptions: 1) If the designated individual rejects the award before any portion has been used and the award has not yet expired (under the seven-year deadline), you can transfer it to someone else. 2) You are able to re-transfer the award for good cause, such as the death of the designated individual or other extreme circumstances. The Corporation for National and Community Service will determine the circumstances that constitute a “good cause.”
  • Since the recipient of your award will have 10 years from the close of your service to use it, beware of giving it to young children. Children seven or younger will be 17 or younger before the award expires and might never have a chance to use it.
  • At any time after you have designated someone to receive your award, you can revoke any unused portion of the award.
  • While the award expires after 10 years for the beneficiary, the transferring individual's control over it expires in seven years. You have seven years from the completion of a service term to designate someone to receive the award and/or revoke any unused portion of the award. There are instances where you can extend the seven year deadline.

Considerations for Individuals Receiving an Award

  • As stated previously, to receive all or part of someone else's award, you must 1) be designated by a qualifying individual; 2) be the child, grandchild, or foster child of the transferring individual, and 3) be a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident of the United States.
  • When you receive an award, it reduces your ability to receive Education Awards in the future --whether through additional gifts or your own AmeriCorps service. You can still participate in national service; you just cannot receive the value of two full-time awards. The amount of your future awards are tied to the percentage of a full-time award you received and the amount of a full-time award in the year the transferring individual’s service was performed. If you receive two full-time awards, you will not be able to receive any further Education Awards.
  • Just because someone designated an Education Award to you, it doesn't mean you have to accept it. By accepting it, you will diminish your ability to receive future awards . You also might have to pay taxes on the transferred award in the year you use it.


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