More youths can win education awards for AmeriCorps service, and they can get awards handed down by their grandparents, under new rules announced Friday by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
The rules, which were created in order to implement the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that was signed into law in April 2009, deal with changes in the eligibility for and amounts of the AmeriCorps education awards (called Segal awards), the calculation of education awards over several stints in AmeriCorps, and transferring education awards from parents (including foster parents) and grandparents.
The changes “will further our goal of expanding opportunities for Americans to serve by increasing incentives, expanding eligibility and improving the benefits for those who answer the call to serve,” Patrick Corvington, CEO of the corporation, said in a prepared statement.
Among the items covered by the new rules:
* Two new education awards: One, the Summer of Service award for rising 6th- to 12th-graders, provides $500 for one summer, although the act increase the maximum to $750 for disadvantaged youth. The rules define a disadvantaged youth as someone “who is eligible for a free lunch or breakfast under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act.”
The rules also provide details for obtaining a Silver Scholar education award of $1,000, which is for those 55 and over.
Like the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards that CNCS has long given out, the new awards can be used to repay qualified student loans, to pay for current educational expenses at an institution of higher education or to pay for the cost of attending a program of education approved by the Veterans Administration.
* Transfer of education benefits: The act allows senior citizens who earn education awards to transfer those benefits to their children, foster children and grandchildren, under various conditions. Among other things, the rulesstate the AmeriCorps volunteer cannot transfer an award to more than one person, but is allowed to transfer only part of the award and keep the rest.
The rules also prohibit people from amassing piles of AmeriCorps awards either to give away or collect. The limit on receiving no more than the value of two awards (see below) will apply to both the giver and the receiver.
* Limits on amount of awards: While AmeriCorps members used to be limited to education awards only on the basis of their first two periods of service, the Kenney Act changed that to focus not on the terms served, but on the total amount received. It says someone is limited to “the aggregate value of [two] such awards.”
The rules lay out how this will be calculated, noting, for example, that “the law does not create an entitlement to receive the aggregate value of two full-time awards; rather, it prohibits an individual from receiving more than the aggregate value of two full-time awards.”
* The amount of the standard AmeriCorps Education Award: The act makes the award equal to the maximum Pell Grant (now $5,350). Among other details, the rules say the corporation “will use the amount of the Pell Grant as of Oct. 1 (the first day of the Federal fiscal year) in the fiscal year in which the national service position is approved,” and explains when a position is considered approved. However, the award of the larger amount is contingent on appropriations from Congress.