When VISTAs complete a full term of service, either 10-weeks in the summer or a full year session, they choose between a cash stipend or an education award. Currently, the education award amount is $6,345 for a full year and $1,358 for a summer associate.
This award can be used toward current tuition, student loans or saved for future schooling. A VISTA has 7 years to use their education award. The education award IS taxed.
According to NationalService.gov, "Segal AmeriCorps Education Award can be used to pay current educational expenses at various types of schools — colleges, universities, trade schools, and overseas schools — that are designated as Title IV by the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, you can use it at schools that process U.S./federal financial aid.
Since the award can be used only for current educational expenses, you cannot use it to cover past balances in your school account. (You can, however, use the award on qualified student loans.)
When sending Education Award funds to a school, the money will arrive in two payments, and the second will arrive midway through the term or semester."
Additionally, some outdoor schools accept the education award.
Pro-tip: Ask your institution to match it! Even if they don't advertise a match program, they may do it. A Fairbanks VISTA applied to several graduate schools, and by asking, got them all to match the education awards at different levels. It went through as a scholarship offered by the institution directly.
Got Student Loans?
Individuals who serve in an approved program may be eligible to have the repayment of their qualified students loans postponed while serving. This postponement is called forbearance. You may be eligible for loan forbearance based on your national service. While interest may continue to accrue during your service, if you successfully complete the term of service the National Service Trust will pay all or a portion of the qualified loan's interest that accrued during your service.
Find more information and experiences at the links below.