AmeriCorps and Teach for America are programs designed to help college students pay for their education. The AmeriCorps program helps you pay for college while still in school through financial aid, though you can participate after your graduate and apply the money towards your student loans. The Teach for America program is designed to help you pay off your student loans after you graduate.
Benefits of These Programs
If you are paying for college on your own, or if your goal is to graduate from college with minimal student debt, then you may want to consider one of these programs.
In addition to the financial benefits of AmeriCorps and Teach for America, these programs provide invaluable work and volunteer experience, which can help when it is time to apply for internships and jobs. Although you can’t always choose where exactly you’ll work via these programs, think of it this way: They give you the opportunity to explore new places and meet new people and to grow both professionally and personally.
How Do They Work?
Through the AmeriCorps program, college students work in service or in a volunteer position for a long-term assignment, usually 10 months to a year.
There are financial benefits to this program. For one, students receive a small living stipend to cover their cost of living during that time. Second, at the completion of the program, they receive a stipend to use toward their education expenses or to pay toward their student loans. There is a two-year education reward limit for each participant. For the 2021-2022 award year, the education reward limit was $12,990.
What type of work you do via AmeriCorps varies, depending on the program you choose. Most of the projects involve working for a service organization such as Habitat for Humanity, or for a food initiative program to feed the hungry. There are part-time positions available as well as full-time positions. You can search for positions by service type and location on the website.
Teach for America
Teach for America is a program designed to help at-risk schools attract teachers. It's important to note that you do not need a degree in education to qualify for this program. You can apply to the program when you graduate from college. If accepted, you will be placed in a region and position that matches your interest and previous work experience when possible.
However, you will be required to meet the certification requirements for the district you are teaching in. Teach for America teachers can use an alternative path to certification. This means you will have to take education classes or training while you are teaching at the school. The costs for these classes may be your responsibility if your district is unable to help you pay for them.
In addition to the pay you will receive from the school district, you may be eligible for an Americorps education award you can use toward your student loans or to cover the cost of becoming certified.
Another financial plus? During the time you serve in Teach for America, you may be eligible to have your student loans put in forbearance. You also receive the same pay as a normal teacher, and the benefits the district offers.
Keep in mind: If you worked for AmeriCorps as an undergraduate, you may not qualify for the full benefits of Teach for America. Be sure to check your eligibility to see if you qualify for the education award before you commit to the program. This program may also be a good option if you have decided you want to pursue teaching as a career.
Teaching or working in the public sector isn’t the right option for everyone. If you decide it’s not for you, then you may want to pursue other options to reduce student loan debt or payments, such as consolidating your loans under the Direct Consolidation Loan program or applying for an income-based loan payment option.
You may qualify to have a portion or all of your student loan debt forgiven if you work for a government agency or a charitable organization. These programs forgive the remaining balance on your loan after ten years of service and payment.
Student loan debt forgiven between 2021 and 2025 is tax-free, due to the American Rescue Plan of 2021.
Another option is to work to pay off your student loans yourself. You can do this by setting up a strict budget and putting your student loan into a debt snowball. This will allow you to focus your money so you can get rid of your student loan payments more quickly.
If you are still in school, you can take advantage of scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs to help cover the cost of your tuition, or even try to pay the interest on your student loan debt each month to help reduce the amount you’ll owe when you graduate. You can also try any of these options, even if you are working in one of these programs to pay off your student loan debt.
Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.