What Happened to Getting Rid of the Taxes on the Education Award?

Institutions that Match the Ed AwardWhen the various bills that became the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act were in play, there was talk about eliminating the taxes from the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

In case you are new to national service, the education award is the post-service benefit received by AmeriCorps and VISTA members that can help them pay for educational expenses and/or student loans. It’s considered taxable income.

It was never the Kennedy bill but rather a separate bill introduced by Senator Dodd of Connecticut that would have ended the tax on the education award. Late in the process, elements of Dodd’s national service bills were incorporated into the Serve America Act. However, the elimination of the taxes on the education award was not one of those elements. The tax remains.

I called Senator’s Dodd office last week and asked a staffer if there were any plans to follow through with Continue reading

Low-Income, High-Debt Program for Student Borrowers Starts in July

When I first heard about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that cancels student loandebt after 10 years for nonprofit workers, I wasn’t that excited. My thinking was that many student loans are on a 10 or 15 year repayment schedule and the savings wouldn’t be that substantial.

Income Based Repayment Calculator

Income Based Repayment Calculator

I changed my tune big time when I learned about a second program called Income-Based Repayment (IBR) that works in tandem with public service loan forgiveness. Designed to assist low income/high debt student borrowers, IBR lets people making AmeriCorps/VISTA/grassroots nonprofit-level wages make student loan payments as small as 0-$5 per month (based on income) and those payments count toward the 10 years needed for borrowers to get their larger debt forgiven.

The reason I write this now is that the Income Based Repayment program begins next month. If you are interested, first learn more about it, then search for it on your lender’s website and apply for the program online.

Finaid. org offers a really great calculator that shows how much you might save (or not) using these programs versus a standard loan repayment program. Even if you’re income is higher than average for the nonprofit field, the program could offer substantial savings.

I also prepared a two-page draft document on the information most relevant to members serving in AmeriCorps or VISTA. Like I said, this is a draft document and I will be revising and simplifying it as my understanding of these programs evolves.

You can also take a look at this post about the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that offers some basic facts and resources.

AmeriCorps Members Produce Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts through the 2009 NW National Service Symposium

Inside the symposium art gallery

Inside the symposium art gallery

A national service arts and writing symposium offers Oregon and Washington AmeriCorps members a chance to create testaments to the impact of service.

A few months ago, I posted an announcement about the NW National Service Symposium. This is an annual event that invites national service participants from across Oregon and Washington to translate their experiences into the literary, visual, and performing arts. This year’s event was held May 14-15 at Portland State University, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the participants to share what they created.

We have posted many of the projects online this year, and they are gathered at on the symposium blog. I encourage you to take a peek. If you want a quick glimpse of the many visual arts projects submitted to the event, you can find them in our online gallery.

With more than 100 projects collected, it’s easy for excellent ones to get caught in the shuffle. As the unbiased coordinator of the project, I am not supposed to have favorites. Still there is an essay that I would like to call attention to.

The writer’s name is Judy Goard, and she identifies herself as a Senior VISTA. She currently serves with Catholic Community Services in Salem, OR. After hearing President Kennedy’s call to Americans to serve while she was in high school, she dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. Family obligations sidetracked her, and she finally joined the Peace Corps in the 1990s at age 49. She completed a VISTA term in Alaska after that, and a few years later, two more terms in Oregon. I am inspired by Judy’s story, which you can read online. Please check it out, as well as many of the other inspirational and outstanding projects.

Rolling out stimulus AmeriCorps members

I listened to an open conference call hosted by Corporation for National and Community Service Chief of Program Operations Kristin McSwain. I am not going to post the more technical aspects of the call, but here are a few points I found interesting.

“Stimulus” members will serve alongside traditional members in existing programs (VISTA might be an exception). Stimulus members will address mostly these areas (though everything is still up in the air) :

1. Winterizing homes, housing access, keeping people in homes
2. Access to health care and providing health care
3. Nonprofit capacity building
4. Youth corps/development

Keep in mind, this is still separate from the Kennedy-Hatch “Serve America Act.”

Here’s the link to the page that will document the changes to national service through the Recovery Act. At the web site, you call a toll-free number to listen to a recording of the call.

Service symposium

This blog goes out to reader all over the country (and way beyond borders) so I don’t usually post items that are local. But I would like to take a moment to showcase a contest and event coming up in Portland, OR this May. It’s open to national service participants from Oregon and Washington although it draws interest nationally.

It’s called the Northwest National Service Symposium, and the idea is to encourage service participants to reflect on their experiences and create literary, visual, and/or performing arts from them. Projects are first submitted in a contest setting, and then gathered and shared at the event in May. First-year national service alums are also encouraged to participate.

This year, more that ever, we are diving into Web 2.0 resources to get the word out. These include:

  • A symposium blog
  • A Youtube channel
  • A Facebook group
  • And of course, an official page with contest rules
  • Amy wrote one of the winning papers a few years back, and I submitted a project to the first symposium back in 1996 and have been on the coordinating team since 2002.

    If you have any questions or thoughts on the symposium, drop me a line. There are any number of ways to reach me, including through The New Service blog, but you can always try servicesymposium at gmail dot com.

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