I’m going to take a break from my usual “reselling” posts to talk about one of the additional ways college students and/or college graduates can take to pay off their student loans. After all, paying off student loan debt is what this blog is about.
Back in September, I cashed in the remaining $893.42 I had left from my Americorps educational award in order to completely eliminate one of my student loans. If you read that particular post (found here), then you would know that my goal for the month of September was to put an additional $1,500 towards my student loans, but I wound up doing more — to the tune of $2,463.42. My original intentions were to save that $893.42 for a rainy day if I ever decided to go back to college to further my education or to take a class that interested me, but looking at how close I was to completely paying off a loan caused me to pull the trigger a little early and use the money to knock out debt.
While I hope that my usual readers get something out of this post, I should note that this post is actually geared towards those of you who are looking for additional ways to pay off (or down) your student loans. I have been getting a lot of search engine traffic to this blog from searches related to earning extra money to pay off student loans and I realize that I only talk about one of the ways to do that which is via reselling low cost items for profit.
Now, you have two options.
What Is Americorps Anyway?
Whenever I told someone that I was an Americorps member, they either didn’t know what I was talking about OR they assumed I was in the military. In short, Americorps (pronounced A-MER-RI-CORE) is a way for individuals to serve their community, learn valuable work skills, and earn money towards their education while doing so. Generally, Americorps positions are found in high-need or economically disadvantaged areas of the country and involve public service work in schools or other public service agencies.
I served two consecutive 11-month terms as an Americorps member. I worked with foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth and helped them plan for their future after high school which usually involved planning for and enrolling into college, obtaining employment (or enrolling in a job training program) and securing stable and safe housing. I also taught weekly lessons on basic life skills such as budgeting, creating healthy meal plans while living on your own, relationship building, establishing credit, etc.
The biggest challenge I faced during this time was actually getting the youth I worked with to graduate. If you think it is hard enough for the average teenager to get through high school, imagine trying to graduate when you’ve switched schools more times than you can count and you’re so credit deficient that you may not graduate for another 2 years even though you’re in your junior year — or you can’t focus on your studies because you don’t know where you will sleep at night or if there will be food for you to eat to make it through the next day.
I would not take back the experience I had working with this population for anything. In fact, the only reason I served another term was because I wanted to see every young person on my caseload succeed. It wasn’t always easy and I did have a few young people who dropped off along the way, but watching the success of my students who did “make it” was well worth it.
How Can Americorps Help Me Pay Off My Student Loans?
One of the benefits of being an Americorps member is that you receive a small “living allowance” and an educational award for your service. If you notice, I did not use the word “paycheck.” Because your duties are considered a “service” and not “work,” you do not receive a paycheck. Instead you receive a living allowance stipend. I won’t go into the full details of my stipend, but I will say that it amounted to a little more than minimum wage. I knew this going in and it did not deter me from wanting the experience.
In additional to the stipend, I also knew that I would receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that I could use towards my education (or student loans) if I successfully completed my term of service.
Full-time vs. Part-time Educational Award
During those two years (or 22 months), I served as a part-time Americops member. Depending on the position you select, you have the option to serve part-time or full-time. Being a part-time Americorps member is great — especially if you are still in college or have other responsibilities.
Due to being a part-time member, I only qualified for a part-time educational award. This equated to half of a full-time award and meant that once I completed my term of service (and my exit interview), $2,750 was deposited into my Americorps account for me to use for educational purposes.
As a full-time member, you have the opportunity to earn an education award that amounts to $5,500*. That is a huge difference! Additionally, your monthly living allowance stipend is significantly higher.
*Please note that these were the amounts based on when I served and that they may be significantly higher now.
Because I successfully completed two terms, I received $5,500 and 100% of those funds went towards paying down my student loans.
As an Americorps member, you are restricted on the number of terms you are allowed to complete. This number is specific to the type of Americorps program you are serving under. For example, I was an Americorps State and National member. It is best that you consult the Americorps website for the official rules, but I will let you know that during my service, the rule in place was that a member could serve no more than 4 terms and/or earn no more than the total of two (2) full-time educational awards. So, in my case, I could have served four (4) part-time terms if I wanted, however, someone who was a full-time member could not serve more than two (2) full-time terms because you can only earn the equivalent of two (2) full-time educational awards or $11,000.
How to Use Your Education Award
Your Segal Americorps Educational Award can be used to help you pay for college now or in the future. It can also be used for graduate school, vocational training or to repay student loan debt.
There are a lot of rules that govern the use of your educational award, but for brevity’s sake, here is what is most important:
- Any of your funds must be used at a Title IV school only. No bootleg colleges or institutions are allowed!
- You have to use your award within 7 years from the last date of your service
- If you are 55 years of age or older at the time of starting your service, you can transfer your award to someone else
Other Student Loan Benefits of Being an Americorps Member
Another benefit to being an Americorps member (whether part-time or full-time) is the fact that you can put your student loans into forebearance AND Americorps will pay the interest that accrues on those loans while you are completing your term of service.
I did not realize how much of a blessing this was until I actually took advantage of it during my second term of service. It’s one thing to have your loans in forbearance and you have to face a huge chunk of money added on at the end of the forbearance and it is another to have someone write a check to Sallie Mae (or your loan holder) to pay for said interest after the forbearance period is over.
Where Do I Find More Information On Americorps?
If you are looking for more information about what Americorps entails and what types of positions are available, I highly suggest you check out their website here: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/join-americorps.
Take the time to learn about each program that falls under the Americorps umbrella because there are several of them. Additionally, be sure to check out places like idealist.org and even Craigslist to see if there are Americorps positions available in your area.
…so there you have it. Now you know where that mysterious chunk of change came from last month that helped me completely wipe out an entire student loan. 🙂
If you have any questions about Americorps or my experience that I did not touch on, feel free to ask below.
Until next time,