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Reduce the Cost of College, Part III: Volunteer for AmeriCorps

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Welcome to the part III of our series on ways to reduce the cost of college. If you are currently suffering from college sticker shock, this series if perfect for you! Check out past posts on how to reduce the cost of college, including graduating in three years rather than four, and attending community college for up to two years before transferring to a four-year university.

This week’s idea for cutting college costs is to volunteer… specifically be an AmeriCorps volunteer. If you aren’t familiar with AmeriCorps, it is President Clinton’s public service initiative, similar to Peace Corps but for populations in need right here at home. A network of service programs across the country aims to meets critical needs in education, public safety, and health.

If you want to contribute positively to our country, you can actually earn a nearly $5,000 stipend to help pay for your future college education (or to apply to college loans, if you decide to volunteer after you have already graduated).

Some of these programs also provide a small living allowance during the time the person is participating in the program.

In addition to a living allowance, all full time participants in an Americorp program are provided an award of $4,725 for each year of participation to pay educational expenses. If you want to give something to the country by joining one of these worthwhile programs, you can earn money for your future education. Here’s how:

In 1997, Congress established the National Service Trust to provide an AmeriCorps Education Award (recently renamed the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award) to everyone who successfully completes their AmeriCorps service. The award is $4,725 for a year of full-time service, and you can claim your award up to seven years after your service.

Plus, if you attend one of 86 “matching” institutions, you can double your AmeriCorps stipend with matching funds from your own college.  You can see a list of participating colleges and universities here.

Tip: If you are already past graduation and looking for ways to reduce your student loan debt, AmeriCorps service may be your answer. The 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act created a new Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which AmeriCorps volunteers qualify for. Plus, you can apply your Education Award to the balance of your loans!

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