Making the Choice (AmeriCorps VISTA)

While the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for AmeriCorps VISTAs is more money than the end-of-service cash stipend, you can only use it for specific schools and student loans. If you don't know what you are doing after service, it's not an easy choice.

Here are a few considerations:

Advantage: Education Award
It's more than three times as much money.

Advantage: Stipend
The stipend is just like cash. Spend it as you like! The award can only be used for school or student loans.

Advantage: Education Award
If you choose the award when you start service, you can change your mind and switch to the stipend, as long as you let your state office know before the end of your tenth month of service. The ability to decide later in your term opens possibilities, especially if you are not sure what you want to do after AmeriCorps VISTA. If you choose the stipend before your swearing in at PSO, you cannot switch to the award later.

Advantage: Stipend
If you already have two full-time education awards but want to serve a third year with AmeriCorps VISTA, this is the only option available to you.

Advantage: Education Award
You can elect to put your federal student loans in national service forbearance while serving.  If you successfully complete your term of service, you can also have CNCS pay the interest that accrued on your federal student loans during your term of service; however, this payment will be treated as taxable income. 

With both the stipend and the education award, you can select Income Driven Repayment Plan or a hardship deferment, but with these, there is a possibility you will pay more in interest down the road.

Advantage: Stipend
If you have Perkins loans and choose the stipend, you can have 15 percent of the original Perkins loan amount forgiven after completing service. Learn more at the Perkins loans and AmeriCorps VISTA page. Keep in mind, that based on the 2016 award amount of $5,815, you would need an original balance of more than $38,750 in Perkins loans for the forgiveness to total an amount greater than the education award.

Education Awards are non transferable.

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