Despite negotiations, AmeriCorps’ vital $100 million grant request was denied last week by Congress, forcing the network of now-beleaguered service programs to find their own way in establishing and maintaining education grants nationwide.
The hit comes at a time when volunteerism on college campuses is nearing an all-time high, with AmeriCorps alone boasting a quarter million participants since 1994 in its State-National, Volunteers in Service to America and National Civilian Community Corps divisions. University students have been steadily involved in the program, which also subsidizes Teach for America and Habitat for Humanity.
The funding denial raises questions about student willingness to participate in AmeriCorps and its subsidiary programs since individual grants and stipends to students serve as incentives to get involved. Volunteers receive a $4,725 stipend to be used toward education in exchange for a year of service. Also, with the loss of steady fund allocation toward Teach for America, college graduates may be reluctant to choose the program.
“I do not think that the denial of funds will affect AmeriCorps in the long run because only a specific percentage of members and service leaders are paid,” Hilary Moss, a second-year AmeriCorps service leader in Philadelphia, said. “Positions are still being filled by eager volunteers more concerned with carrying out work and less about getting paid, an idea that lies at the core of our mission.”
AmeriCorps, introduced by President Clinton in 1993, has been met with recent legislative woes, nearly crippling the program’s infrastructure by leaving over a third of the 50,000 positions unfunded.
“This won’t deter people from coming out,” Moss said. “It is discouraging that AmeriCorps will not be able to offer the reward grants and in turn entice more members to join had the grant been approved, but I don’t think it will greatly affect the program as a whole.”