Americorps

It’s time we shifted our policy making towards such well designed programs.

It was during my IVLP that I came across the Americorps. Americorps is a voluntary public service program, supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors.. The objective of the program is to improve lives and foster civic engagement.

Members commit their time to address community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks etc. The members rewarded for their contributions through living cost stipends and education credits.

Members may be provided low financial compensation in the form of cost-of-living allowances, student loan deferment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and the Americorps Education Award.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is a United States government program that was created under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA) to provide indebted professionals a way out of their federal student loan debt burden by working full-time in public service.

The AmeriCorps Education Award is granted to members who are serving, part-time or full-time, in participating programs through Americorps. After completing a term of service, Americorps members are eligible to receive the education award to pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training, or to repay qualified student loans.

What was striking to me about the design of the program was how they had tied the rewards to education credits. What was even more striking was that the education rewards can also be transferred to your child, (including step-child, foster-child, grandchild, or step-grandchild). There are few safeguards also put in place. There are limitations on the numbers of terms an individual can serve and the maximum value of education award an individual can receive. Education credit transfer is allowed only for those who are over 55 years of age as well.

By combining service with education credits, it incentivises people to both take up service roles and pursue their education. For young adults, they get to do service roles at an age where you are most idealistic, stand to gain some professional experience while contributing and also get to reduce their cost of education. For seniors, they get to contribute their expertise and time to meaningful service roles while also affording the ability to gift education credits to their children.

Every country and society needs people, and qualified people particularly, contributing time to public service. A well designed program similar to Americorps has the potential to attract more and qualified talent to public service. I also find this education credits approach better than the one hinged on market salaries to attract talent to public service roles. Studies have also found that participation in Americorps strengthened civic attitudes and made members more likely to choose careers in public service.

It’s time we shifted our policy making towards such well designed programs.