AmeriCorps & Education Award Resources
What is a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award?
After successfully completing an AmeriCorps service term, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that can be used to pay for college or technical school or to pay back qualified student loans. The dollar amount of a full-time education award is tied to the maximum amount of the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant. AmeriCorps members may earn up to the value of two full-time education awards and have seven years from the date they earned each award to use it. The Education Award is taxed as income in the year it is used. Learn more on the AmeriCorps website.
Your Education Award is managed by AmeriCorps, not Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. The My AmeriCorps Portal website will answer most questions about your AmeriCorps Education Award. Your Education Award may be used to repay qualified student loans, to pay educational expenses at a qualified school, and/or for training programs (see non-traditional uses detailed below). If you are an AmeriCorps member, you should have already created an account through the My AmeriCorps Portal. The portal is designed to assist AmeriCorps members before, during, and after their term of service.
If you need to register for a new account:
- Access the system through the My AmeriCorps website.
- Once you are at the login page, click the “Register to create a new Member/Alum Account” link.
- On the registration page, enter your last name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and current e-mail address (you must enter the e-mail address that you used on your enrollment form).
- Click “Submit” and follow the instructions on your screen for your next steps.
After you complete your term of service, our Conservation Corps staff will exit you from AmeriCorps. It can take up to one month for your exit paperwork to clear. Once you have been exited a new option will appear on your My AmeriCorps Portal, under “My Education Award” which allows you to pay your lending institution or Title IV School of choice.
For inquiries about your Education Award or the My AmeriCorps online system, call the AmeriCorps hotline at 1-800-942-2677.
The AmeriCorps Education Award is subject to federal tax in the year that the award payment is applied (not awarded) regardless of whether it is used on current educational expenses or repaying a qualified student loan. The payment for interest accrual will also be taxable in the year the payment was made. You will receive Form 1099 with interest payments and AmeriCorps Education Award payments listed together to be used in preparing your income tax return. Interest that is paid on qualified student loans is also subject to income taxes in the year it is paid.
While you are responsible for taxes on your living stipend, education award, and interest payments, you may be eligible for the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, or for tax relief through the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. Contact a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service for details – IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education explains tax benefits that may be available to members who are using education awards to pay for current educational expenses or to repay qualified student loans.
Free Tax Preparation
Many AmeriCorps members qualify for free tax preparation assistance from the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA); your local community action agency or United Way can help you identify the nearest VITA site, or you can find locations using the IRS Locator Tool, MN Department of Revenue locator tool, or by calling 800-906-9887.
AmeriCorps members qualify for the use of the IRS’s Free File – a software you can use to prepare and file your federal individual tax return online for free.
Contact a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service to find out if you qualify for the following deductions and tax credits:
Make your education award go further. Certain schools will provide scholarships or a match for AmeriCorps alums with the Education Award. Explore AmeriCorps’ list of participating schools to see what benefits might be available.
Start by researching Title IV international schools. These are institutions that process U.S. federal student aid, such as Stafford loans. If your My AmeriCorps account will not allow you to send funds overseas, you might consider taking out a Stafford or other federal student loan and then repaying the loan with your award. If an overseas school is NOT listed as Title IV but you still want to use your Education Award, consider enrolling 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.
Another option is serving abroad through Global Service Corps. Global Service Corps offers the ability to earn college credit while having an overseas service experience. Learn more here.
Outdoor Adventure and Leadership
Use your Education Award to attend an outdoor leadership school, go on an expedition, and learn wilderness first aid, environmental ethics, outdoor skills, leadership, and more.
The International Wilderness Leadership School allows you to travel abroad or within the U.S. using your Education Award, and some programs may even count towards college credit. Choose a semester or year-long program to learn canyoneering, backpacking, and more.
National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) matches your education award up to $2,000 for semester or year-long expeditions in local or international locations. International locations include Chile, Sweden, India, and many more! There are also classes to become an instructor and special courses for adults.
Outward Bound has courses you can receive college credit through Western State Colorado University. Outward Bound also has classes nationwide and internationally.
Starting Your Own Business
Many community colleges and universities have started to offer business incubator opportunities, which provide space and resources for businesses to grow during their beginning stages. Business incubators at schools offer students the chance to experience starting a business and practice entrepreneurship. Some business incubator programs provide mentorship, networking opportunities, funding resources, and more. Research schools that offer business incubator opportunities. Some schools only require participants to apply for their business incubator programs, while others require enrollment in a business start-up class. Once you’re enrolled in one of these programs, you can use your Education Award to pay for it.
Yoga Teacher Certification
Some community colleges offer yoga instructor certification classes – some are through the schools’ Health Science programs, and some are in partnership with Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit association that certifies Registered Yoga Teachers and Registered Yoga Schools. You can search through Yoga Alliance’s registered schools on their website. Community college programs are generally cheaper and may be more familiar with handling the financial aid process. Some non-profit yoga certification programs and holistic schools accept federal financial aid.
You may also be able to use your Education Award for culinary school, massage therapy school, aviation school, renewable energy certification, cosmetology school, acting school, and more.