Quitting Early? The Corps Member’s Dilemma

A corps member wonders about leaving the service corps early.

Hi Amy,

My host site has offered me a full-time job.  I am trying to decide whether I want to just quit my national service term now and take the job, or ask the host organization wait until my term is up in February.  The dilemma, of course, is my education award.  Do you know if AmeriCorps ever pro-rates the educational award?  Are there any options that you might know of?

Of course, it might also be more profitable to take the job now, because I could probably make the amount of the educational award in a few months.

Thanks so much!

Signed,

Torn

Dear Torn,

Congratulations!  I am really glad that your host organization recognizes your hard work and talent.

Yikes, this is a tough question. There is little chance you would get any of your educational award. (Maybe if you were leaving because of a life-threatening illness in your family.)

I also think it would reflect negatively on your host organization to hire a corps member who isn’t finished with their term yet. Your organization would jeopardize getting new participants by hiring you on. I was hired by my boss at Idealist.org about three months before my AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader term ended – and he waited for me! I took his willingness to wait as a sign of respect for me and for AmeriCorps*VISTA.

I think asking your host organization to wait is the best option. In the long run you’ll feel more of a sense of accomplishment, and you won’t let down community partners who are expecting you to serve out your term.  If you ever need to apply to host corps members yourself, or you want to participate in the activities of your alumni group, you’ll be able to hold your head high.

If you decided to wait, and your organization agreed, maybe you could change your work plan enough to tackle some of the new job tasks, if they are related to the grant proposal submitted originally to fund your current service position.

On the other hand if you are facing more than just the typical economic hardship (i.e. if you are ruining your credit record or running up irreparable debt), the choice is also clear that you should accept the job offer. Also if your organization isn’t willing to wait for you, that might be another reason to seriously consider leaving your service year early – though again, it will not reflect well on the organization.

Regardless of what you decide, you can interpret the early job offer as a clear sign that you’ll readily find quality work when you do finish your term!

Most likely, once you start earning a regular salary you won’t feel like you missed out by waiting. If you started a salaried job tomorrow, you’d have little chance of socking away $4725 (the amount of your educational award) by February.

Good luck whatever you decide….

Amy

This blog post has been adapted from a section of the forthcoming Service Corps Companion to the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers, due out this coming spring from Idealist.org.

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3 thoughts on “Quitting Early? The Corps Member’s Dilemma

  1. I’d just like to stress Amy’s point that this would affect the host organization negatively.

    The project I was a Leader and staff with had one site hire a member on before they finished their term of service. Of course, as the grantee agency, this impacted us pretty negatively, meaning that we weren’t hitting our grant numbers. In Montana, the AmeriCorps community was small, so word got around quick, and that organization was pretty much black-listed by both VISTA programs, and AmeriCorps*State programs . . .

  2. Pingback: Career Tip: Timing Your Job Search and Supporting Yourself During the Transition « The New Service

  3. P.S. Amy Bergstrom, Associate Director of Policy for AmeriCorps State and National has this to say about AmeriCorps policies (from a listserv discussion, 8/03/09):

    Our statute, regs, and provisions are silent regarding employment with a placement site after service, and we don’t monitor for it. If a member terminated early to accept a job with their service site, this would not be considered a compelling personal circumstance except in the circumstances described below and so they would not receive a pro-rated education award.

    § 2522.230 Under what circumstances may AmeriCorps participants be released from completing a term of service, and what are the consequences?
    An AmeriCorps program may release a participant from completing a term of service for compelling personal circumstances as demonstrated by the participant, or for cause.

    (a) Release for compelling personal circumstances. (1) An AmeriCorps program may release a participant upon a determination by the program, consistent with the criteria listed in paragraphs (a)(5) through (a)(6) of this section, that the participant is unable to complete the term of service because of compelling personal circumstances.

    (2) A participant who is released for compelling personal circumstances and who completes at least 15 percent of the required term of service is eligible for a pro-rated education award.

    (3) The participant has the primary responsibility for demonstrating that compelling personal circumstances prevent the participant from completing the term of service.

    (4) The program must document the basis for any determination that compelling personal circumstances prevent a participant from completing a term of service.

    (5) Compelling personal circumstances include:

    (i) Those that are beyond the participant’s control, such as, but not limited to:

    (A) A participant’s disability or serious illness;

    (B) Disability, serious illness, or death of a participant’s family member if this makes completing a term unreasonably difficult or impossible; or

    (C) Conditions attributable to the program or otherwise unforeseeable and beyond the participant’s control, such as a natural disaster, a strike, relocation of a spouse, or the nonrenewal or premature closing of a project or program, that make completing a term unreasonably difficult or impossible;

    (ii) Those that the Corporation, has for public policy reasons, determined as such, including:

    (A) Military service obligations;

    (B) Acceptance by a participant of an opportunity to make the transition from welfare to work; or

    (C) Acceptance of an employment opportunity by a participant serving in a program that includes in its approved objectives the promotion of employment among its participants.

    (6) Compelling personal circumstances do not include leaving a program:

    (i) To enroll in school;

    (ii) To obtain employment, other than in moving from welfare to work or in leaving a program that includes in its approved objectives the promotion of employment among its participants

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