This is a guest blog post from Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom about our upcoming sponsored workshop for AmeriCorps members on managing their Education Award.
The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is an amazing benefit to members. With more and more schools offering matches or in-state tuition or other benefits to alums, the education award is a compelling reason for many members to join and to finish service.
However, the education award can be confusing to use. Most program staff aren’t financial aid specialists, so they often don’t know how to answer members’ questions.
For example, here are two confusing issues related to using the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award:
1) If a member uses it to pay for tuition and educational expenses as a qualified school, the amount they request to be sent to the school will be split into 2 payments.
The official language from CNCS/AmeriCorps is, “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.”
How this impacts the member depends on the school and how familiar they are with the award as well as how flexible their policies are. Unfortunately some members can run into trouble and have their accounts put on hold, making them unable to register for classes or do other important things until it gets sorted out. We recommend members start early and find out who at the school has the most experience with AmeriCorps. They should take notes on who they speak to and when and come prepared for the call or meeting knowing how the process is supposed to work.
2) Whether or not an AmeriCorps member should take advantage of loan forbearance depends on a lot of factors.
With the end to the federal hold on student loan payments coming as soon as June, a lot of current AmeriCorps members are going to face choices about how to handle their loans. AmeriCorps offers loan forbearance, but there are a few reasons members should do more research before they apply. The big one is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It may be better to pursue an income-driven loan repayment plan if they’re pursuing PSLF. This article from NerdWallet has helpful information about many different forbearance situations.
The workshop we’re sponsoring on May 24th at 2 pm Eastern Time will help AmeriCorps members learn how to use their Education Award and give them inspiration for ways to use it if they don’t already have a plan.
We can’t wait to see you there!
– Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom