Michelle Obama talks about AmeriCorps

In a post-election interview with Newsweek, Michelle Obama talks about potential expansion to AmeriCorps and national service, as well as her association with Public Allies. Again, with the economy such an issue, it’s great to see that national service isn’t getting placed on the back burner!

(See also this post about Public Allies press coverage since the election.)


I checked out the presidential transition Change.gov website today to see if I could find much about national service. Yikes, it’s a high enough priority that it even gets its own tab (“America Serves”) across the top of the page! There isn’t that much content yet (but that might change by the time you click your way there. I am hopeful that national service will be less of a White House pet project than one of the primary solutions to the many problems affecting the country.

To read more about Obama’s service initiatives, check out his pre-election stance. To read more about service programs currently available, including teaching corps, conservation corps, etc., check out our side bar — “corps and coalition,” categories, and tag cloud.

Those pesky student loans

Amy is off to New York to see Obama, McCain, and maybe President Clinton at the Service Nation Summit, while I’m stuck in Portland contemplating the nuances of financial aid. At the least the weather is as close to perfect as can be.

I learned more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. That’s the new law that allows people working at nonprofits to have their student loans forgiven after 10 years of steady payments, starting from October 2007. (One of the catches is that you need to have Direct Loans, but if you don’t, you can consolidate.)

For me the downside of the program is that if you don’t have huge loans, at the end of ten years of steady payments there won’t be much of a balance to be forgiven. Still, getting any student loan balance off the books is a wonderful thing and should be taken advantage of.

But then I learned about another program called Income-Based Repayment, with huge implications for AmeriCorps and VISTA members, as well as others earning low pay while working in the nonprofit sector.

It comes online in July 2009.

In a nutshell, the Income-Based Repayment program sets your loan repayment amount at a rate of 15 percent of your discretionary income. Without getting too much into the math, if you are below the poverty line, your payments could be $0 per month. Sure interest will accrue, but the idea is if you serve in AmeriCorps or VISTA for a year or two and hold a low-paying nonprofit job for the next nine or ten years, you could get your entire loan debt erased without making a single payment in that time. (You should check the list of qualifying loans. If you don’t have them, consider consolidating.)

The trick with either one of these programs is to start planning now if you think you might be taking advantage of these programs.

I will write more later about the pros and cons of the Income-Based Repayment program vs. the forbearance CNCS offers to AmeriCorps and VISTA members.

Update 11/07, from Put Barber, Senior Researcher at Idealist.org:

The Department of Education has published final regulations for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA). This Act provides for loan forgiveness for full time employees of “public service organizations.” Nonprofit full-time employees (at least 30 hours a week) who are making monthly college loan repayments can count each month of nonprofit employment towards the 120 months of payments needed to qualify for forgiveness of the remaining loan balance, beginning with payments after October 1, 2007. Current nonprofit employees with outstanding student loans of more than nine years future duration can look forward to an end to the loan payments in after about nine more years of work for nonprofits.

The National Council of Nonprofit Organizations (NCNA), along with other national groups, worked throughout the rule-drafting process to extend this provision to employees of all 501(c)(3) organizations. For more information, see a Q & A on the NCNA website.

The Byrds, Temptations, Lovin’ Spoonful and VISTA

A VISTA Campus web site has been launched to serve as a learning resource for VISTAs and supervisors. One of my favorite sections is an alumni page that includes audio files from many of the “Voices of VISTA” radio programs that aired during the 1960s. Musical performers who perform VISTA public service announcements include Otis Redding, Simon and Garfunkel, and Peggy Lee. Leonard Nimoy also did a Voices of VISTA spot, but for whatever reason it’s not included here.

When you click the link, log on as a guest to check out these sound files. You can also check out other sections of the campus.