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Policy Library

Build Out a State Service Corps to Reduce Student Loan Debt and Increase Civic Participation

Student loan debt continues to crush millions of Americans, and has grown to become a $1.5 trillion dollar crisis. By providing college loan repayment or tuition assistance to those who help fill critical needs in their state, a State Service Corps can provide major relief for young people who would otherwise struggle to pay back their loans. Service programs across the country provide young people with job training and tuition assistance, while in engaging them in local service projects. With a State Service Corps, states can invest in young people and set them up for success, while better addressing statewide needs.

The National Landscape

Introduced in:

New York (12)

In The News

“When ... AmeriCorps Members complete their terms of service, they continue their higher education with help from their AmeriCorps higher education scholarships…. AmeriCorps is a relatively inexpensive program, using local resources, meeting basic human needs, training the next generation, and bringing out the best in all of us through national service.”
“A first-of-its-kind [service corps] program in Rio Arriba County will train 15 people who are in recovery from substance abuse disorder to become certified peer support workers and use their lived experience to help others dealing with the disease. … [A]t the end of the service year [volunteers] will receive an education grant equal to that year’s Pell Grant, which can be used to pay for higher education costs.”
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
The Economics: Why National Service Is Worth It
“[F]or every dollar invested in national service programs for youth and seniors, almost $4 are returned to society in future benefits. … Programs with educational awards...dovetail with students’ need to develop their human capital without piling on excessive student-loan debt.”

Partners

  • Nonprofits and communities where service corps members would serve
  • Students and their families
  • Youth advocates

Opposition

None noted
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FAQ

Who does this help?
A State Service Corps helps young people working to afford college or burdened by student loan debt. It also helps build stronger communities by engaging young people in public service, and provides skills, training and practical work experience that can lead to expanded long-term career opportunities.
Is this high cost to the state?
No. A recent study found that every $1 invested in national service programs such as AmeriCorps returns nearly $4 in the form of higher earnings, greater output, and other benefits. For every $10 spent on AmeriCorps at the federal level, $15 more is raised through private partnerships, a potential that exists at the state level too.
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Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the STATE Service Corps Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
To establish a STATE Service Corps to provide student loan relief, job training, and work experience, in exchange for providing community service in underserved areas.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) It is hereby established a STATE Service Corps, administered by the STATE Department of Labor (or analogous state entity). The Service Corps shall provide interested applicants with service opportunities deemed most likely to further an applicant’s stated educational and professional interests. The services to be provided include, but are not limited to:
  • (i) green jobs in service of activities or industries that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality;
  • (ii) health services by applicants with the necessary qualifications to provide medical, dental, psychological, or other related services as deemed appropriate by Service Corps administration;
  • (iii) services that benefit the developmental and educational needs of early childhood; and
  • (iv) services that provide exposure to, and participation in, the Arts or Humanities.

(b) Individuals who complete a term of service, shall be eligible for an education grant to be used for either tuition costs at eligible institutions of higher learning or student loan repayment.

(c) Funding for the education grant shall be comprised of any federal dollars allocated for implementing community service programs, with necessary additional funding allocated through STATE budgetary procedures.

(d) The STATE Service Corps shall, in consultation with administrative agencies deemed relevant and necessary by the STATE Legislature, have the following powers and duties:
  • (i) to recruit and select Service Corps professionals for service in eligible institutions, facilities, or professions;
  • (ii) to place Service Corps professionals in eligible institutions and facilities pursuant to agreements with the appropriate eligible institutions and facilities;
  • (iii) to develop criteria for the selection of applicants for placement under this program including, but not limited to, the individual’s academic achievement, previous work experience in the relevant industry or related services, a demonstrated interest in working with vulnerable populations or providing community service;
  • (iv) to accept and expend any grants, awards or other funds or appropriations as may be available to effectuate the purposes of this Act subject to the limitations as to the approval of expenditures and audit as prescribed for state funds by STATE finance law; and
  • (v) to do any and all other things necessary to carry out its functions, powers and duties and to effectuate the purposes of this Act.

(e) The nature and extent of a proposed service project shall be submitted in writing to the appropriate delegated oversight entity prior to expending any public funds.