by Laura Smith,
As the ability to pay off college loans and pay for graduate school gets harder, a college senior may look into another option for payment, one that fulfills the financial requirements and also allows them to give back to others.
Volunteer service organizations, including AmeriCorps, Teach for America, the Peace Corps and the National Guard, all help to pay for college tuition, loan re-payment or graduate school. In AmeriCorps, a student can receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award after completing a term of service, which lasts 10 to 12 months. Currently, this award is $4,725, which can go toward costs at higher learning institutions, educational training or repayment for qualified student loans.
AmeriCorps is divided into three programs: AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorp Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. Service in AmeriCorps can include activities such as tutoring or mentoring children, working for Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and many others.
Siobhan Dugan, AmeriCorps public affairs specialist in Washington D.C., described the service as “any social service or duty you can do full time.”
“It has provided people with the ability to continue their education,” she said.
AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Katharine Baas works in the Center for Service Learning. Through the North Carolina Campus Compact, she is just one VISTA member representing AmeriCorps at institutions throughout the United States.
According to Baas, more people have been applying to work with AmeriCorps.
“It’s professional growth you can get through these positions,” she said. Teach for America also allows students to earn the AmeriCorps education award.
In addition, Teach for America students receive a full salary with benefits. They will also be teacher certified at the end of two years.
Depending on the region in which they are placed, teachers can be paid $27,000-$47,000, according to Jennifer Peddycord, North Carolina Teach for America recruitment director. Partnering graduate schools such as Yale Law School offer two Teach for America grants worth $30,000 each and most partnering universities waive the application fee.
“Logically, it really makes a lot of sense,” Peddycord said. “I was making $40,000 and reaping all these benefits (at the same time). For a job right out of school, that is pretty good.”
The Peace Corps is another service organization that allows students to give back while gaining financial benefits.
Today, the Peace Corps works in emerging areas including education, youth outreach, community development, business development, environment, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS, food security and information technology in regions all over the world.
Under Stafford Loans, the Federal Perkins Loan and direct consolidation loans, students can defer payment through the Peace Corps.
Under the Perkins Loan, students can receive 15 percent forgiveness per year they serve. Normally, students serve for 27 months, according to Laura Lartigue, acting press director for Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C.
“It’s a great deal,” she said. “It is a definite financial benefit for people who are strapped with the student loans.”
The National Guard also helps recent college grads with financial assistance.
First, the Montgomery GI Bill SR (Chapter 1606) gives students a monthly stipend of $329, which they can use for school or living expenses as long as they are enrolled in school. Students get this automatically if they join the National Guard for six years.
If deployed, students are given a larger amount ($528-$1,056, depending on how long they are deployed) through the Reserve Education Assistance Program Chapter 1607 GI Bill.
In the National Guard tuition program, students can get $4,500 a year that goes directly to any accredited school.
In the North Carolina state tuition assistance program, the maximum amount of money received is based on the highest state tuition rate, which is currently $5,396 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As far as loans themselves go, “if they are qualified to enlist in the National Guard, they are eligible for student loan repayment,” said Devin L. West, sgt. assistant incentive manager for North Carolina.
For a six-year enlistment, there is a $20,000 payoff, a 15 percent payoff per year. To earn this loan payoff, students must score at least a 50 on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Test military test, commit to a six-year obligation and be part of a deployable unit. ”I’ve seen a lot of soldiers who enlist use it,” West said. “I think it’s a great benefit.”