Learn about financial aid opportunities available to AmeriCorps alumni that might significantly increase a student's ability to create a better aid offer, how avoid losing aid, and other financial aid tips.

The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award can be used to pay current educational expenses at various types of schools — colleges, universities, trade schools, and overseas schools — that are designated as Title IV by the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, you can use it at schools that process U.S./federal financial aid.

Veterans of the Armed Forces can also use it for education, apprenticeship, and on-job training at institutions that accept the G.I. Bill. (Non veteran members who earned an Education Award between October 1, 2009 and December 22, 2011 are also allowed unrestricted use of their awards at educational institutions on the G.I. Bill approved list.)

Since the award can be used only for current educational expenses, you cannot use it to cover past balances in your school account. (You can, however, use the award on qualified student loans.)

  • You can use the award for enrichment classes and take a course or two here and there through a community college, junior college, or university -- as long as it's Title IV.
  • There are also a number of matching institutions that provide an incentive for national service participants. For example, some schools offer a scholarship to AmeriCorps alumni.
  • A student might be able to use the award to purchase a computer and/or buy school gear as long as the items qualify as "cost of attendance" expenses at a Title IV school.

When sending Education Award funds to a school, the money will arrive in two payments, and the second will arrive midway through the term or semester. 

Create a Better Aid Offer

The national service income you receive while you serve (living allowance, Education Award, national service interest paid on your student loans) does not count against you when you apply for financial aid. Since financial aid is a need-based system, your service experience could make you eligible for aid you might not have received if you had taken a regular job rather than serve.

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Assistance) can help current AmeriCorps members and alumni get beneficial student aid. The trick is in knowing how to fill out the form correctly. See the FAFSA Process tab below for more information. 

FAFSA Process

Hidden midway through the FAFSA application is a question that will prevent your AmeriCorps income from counting against your financial aid. On the paper version of the 2013-14 FAFSA, it's easy to find: Question 43D.

For the online form, there is a screen labeled “Student Financial Information Continued,” with a number of check boxes. Click the checkbox next to the text, “Grants and scholarship aid reported to the IRS.” When you click the box, this text should appear:

Student grant and scholarship aid reported to the IRS in your (and your spouse’s) adjusted gross income. Includes AmeriCorps benefits (awards, living allowances, and interest accrual payments), as well as grant and scholarship portions of fellowships and assistantships.

Make sure you fill this out.to help you get a better financial aid package. When you submit your FAFSA, the financial aid office will subtract the amounts you list in this section. This gives you a lower adjusted gross income.

In other words, if your only source of income in the previous calendar year is $9,000 from AmeriCorps, then for financial aid purposes your income is $0, and you potentially could receive a better financial aid package. (Be aware that other factors may apply here -- for example, if your parents still claim you as a dependent or if you have other assets.)

The potential benefits can stretch into two school years. The FAFSA you fill out for the 2013-14 school year is based on your 2012 taxes. Likewise, down the road, the FAFSA you fill out for the 2014-15 school year will be based on your 2013 taxes. If your term of service runs from 2013-14, you can potentially receive benefits from this section of the FAFSA over the next two school years. Even if you take a year off national service before going to school, you might still be able to benefit.

Avoid Losing Aid

Keep your Education Award funds in your MyAmeriCorps portal account until after your insitution awards you a financial aid package. (Your Education Award funds should not count against you, as long as they are still in your My AmeriCorps account and not yet sent to the school. Even then, if you are filling out your financial aid forms correctly, your award funds should not count against you. See Create a Better Aid Offer above for more information. Remember you have seven years to use your Education Award, from the date your receive it.

Strategy

To make sure that you do not lose aid when using your award, work with financial aid officers from your school, and let them know you have an Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, but don't want to use it if it will cause you to lose aid. Learn more in the Financial Aid Tips below.

Financial Aid Tips

Tip 1: Learn the ropes If you pay attention to the financial aid process, you might be able to get more money to go to school or borrow less in student loans. Each year the Department of Education produces Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid. From this guide, and other resources such as FinAid.org, you can get valuable advice that will help you pay for college.

Tip 2: Prepare and charm! When you talk to financial aid officers, think of it as a job interview: Be professional and ask informed questions, based on your research. Financial aid officers make decisions that can help or hurt you, so it's in your best interest to come across as smart and businesslike.

Tip 3: Know the lingo! It's smart to familiarize yourself with some of the financial aid terms that apply to your national service experience and your Education Award. Here are some key terms. You can learn more at a site like FinAid.org.

Cost of Attendance (COA): The amount it costs to attend a college or university as determined by the school. (The amount varies from school to school.) Included in the COA are tuition/fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and potentially the one-time purchase of a computer. You can use your Education Award for any cost that can be determined as Cost of Attendance.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount you and your family (if your parents claim you on their taxes) are expected to contribute toward the cost of your education. This is based on income and assets from the previous tax year.

Need: The difference between the COA and the EFC is the student's financial need:

   COA - EFC = Need.

Based on the information you provided in your FAFSA, the financial aid office will create an offer of grants, aid, and loans that match your need.

FAFSA Form

The Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) is a form (paper and online versions available) for prospective and current students who want to receive financial aid. Learn more at Department of Education FAFSA

Complete your FAFSA at the beginning of a calendar year to meet priority financial aid deadlines, often in March or earlier. Even if you are not yet accepted to a school, you can still fill out the FAFSA. FAFSA forms are completed annually by current and anticipating college students (both undergraduate and graduate) and sometimes their parents to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid (including grants, loans, and work-study programs).

Types of Schools

Title IV: A Title IV school is an institution that processes U.S. federal student aid, such as Stafford loans. Search Title IV schools or ask your institution directly.

GI Bill: While the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award rewards those who complete national service, the G.I. Bill provides post-service benefits (including education) to veterans of the U.S. Military. The Serve America Act allows veterans to use the AmeriCorps award for education, apprenticeship, and on-the job training at institutions that accept the G.I. Bill. This greatly expands the opportunities for award beyond the Title IV list. Non veteran members who earned an Education Award between October 1, 2009 and December 22, 2011 are also allowed unrestricted use of their awards at educational institutions on the G.I. Bill approved list.

Find schools and other institutions that accept the G.I. Bill through the Department of Veterans Affairs. You cannot use the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for certifications, licenses, and national exams approved for the G.I. Bill. As mentioned earlier, it is limited to education, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training.

Many of the schools you will find on the G.I. Bill also appear on the Title IV list. Public and and private colleges and universities will often appear on both lists, as well as trade schools and overseas schools. However, the G.I. Bill list offers far more trade schools and overseas schools, as well as apprentice programs with government agencies such as police departments. The G.I. Bill list also includes more flight schools and schools with a religious focus than the Title IV list.

NOTE: If you are the recipient of a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award given to you by a parent, grandparent, or foster parent, you can use your award for Title IV schools but not a non-Title IV learning institution on the approved G.I. Bill list.

Enrichment Classes: You can use your Education Award for individual classes at a community college or public university, as long as it is Title IV.

Outdoor and International Education: Even some non-Title IV educational institutions will allow you to use your award. For example, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming isn't listed as Title IV, but accepts the education award. (Tuition is processed through Central Wyoming College.)

Outward Bound specializes in active learning expeditions that inspire character development, self-discovery and service both in and out of the classroom and accepts the education award through its partner schools, Western State College of Colorado and Northland College.

Global Service Corps provides service-learning community development programs in Tanzania, Cambodia, and Thailand with optional academic credit. The Segal award can be used toward program fees, airfare, and related expenses. The program is in partnership with Seminole State College of Florida.

Overseas Schools: Schools overseas, in Mexico, and in Canada that are listed at Title IV schools, accept the Education Award. You can look up specific schools and regions through the Department of Education's Title IV resource. (On the second screen, when it asks you to choose a state in a drop down box, select "Foreign Country.") You can also browse all Title IV schools from the 2018-19 academic year. It's helpful for finding schools in specific countries. If your My AmeriCorps account won't allow you to send funds to the overseas school, you might consider taking out a Stafford or other federal student loan and then repaying the loan with your award or contact the National Service Trust at 1-800-942-2677.

If an overseas school is NOT listed as Title IV but you would still like to attend using your education award, you might be able to enroll in a school stateside and participate in an exchange program. That way, you are paying your tuition to a school inside the U.S. while attending a school overseas. To make this option work, it will take a bit of research on your part.

Trade Schools: A number of trade schools are Title IV, including some flight, massage, cooking, salon, auto, and court reporting programs. 

Veterans Benefits

If you are using the G.I. Bill to attend an institution of higher learning, you can also use your Education Award. This is a change that went into effect with the passage of the Serve America Act. If your financial aid office is not aware of this, refer them the law.)

Buy School Gear

You can use your Education Award to pay for expenses within the school's predetermined Cost of Attendance. (Cost of attendance is a financial aid term for the general amount it would cost for a student to attend that school). Some schools allow an increase of Cost of Attendance in a given year to help pay for supplies and equipment, such as a computer. Ask your financial aid office what the policy is.

Requesting to buy items that are relevantt to your major or classwork will boost your chances of being approved. Important: When you send Education Award funds to a school, they will arrive in two disbursements. This might affect your ability to purchase school items in a timely manner.

Matching Institutions

Hundreds of institutions match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or provide other scholarships for AmeriCorps alumni. Learn more about the Matching Institutions Program and see a complete list of Matching Institutions

If your school is not a Matching Institution, invite them to become one


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