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The Segal Education Award: What Is It and How Can I Use It?

As graduation season approaches and City Year AmeriCorps members prepare to implement their Life After City Year (LACY) plans, many will be deciding how, where, and when to use their Eli Segal Education Award. This award, named after the first CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Eli Segal, is a financial award that City Year AmeriCorps members earn at the completion of their year of service.

Some may graduate knowing exactly how they plan to use this funding, while others may be wondering what to do with it. In an effort to de-mystify the “Ed Award,” as it’s sometimes called, I recently reached out to AmeriCorps alumni from across the country to ask how they used their Education Award and the impact it has had on their lives. Some of the answers surprised me!

How Much Is The Segal Award?

A full Education Award is equivalent to a Pell Grant, which in 2023 is currently $6,895. While you can serve multiple terms with City Year, you can only receive the equivalent of two full-time Education Awards. This means if you serve two full terms with City Year, you can walk away with professional work experience, a strong resume, AND over $13,000 to help you achieve your education/career goals.

How Can I Use The Award?

So how can the award be used? Fortunately, there are many options. The Segal Education Award is accepted at Title IV schools, which luckily includes most post-secondary institutions, including some outside of the U.S. This means it can be used towards any degree program, certification, course, or training at a Title IV institution – essentially the sky is the limit. Something to consider is that some institutions will waive application fees and/or even match your Education Award! (Check out the list of Schools of National Service here.) It can also be used to repay qualifying student loans, which includes any loans backed by the federal government under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (except parent PLUS Loans), loans under Titles VII or VIII of the Public Service Health Act, or loans made by a state agency, including state institutions of higher education.

As a City Year alumna myself, I used my Education Awards to pay down student debt and fund the remainder of my undergraduate studies. However, as I prepared to write about the award, now years later, I became curious to hear from other alumni about how they leveraged theirs. I set up a poll in a group for AmeriCorps alums, and over 1,000 alumni responded! The poll I set up was limited to four options, and the final breakdown was as follows:

    • 52% indicated they used their award to pay back qualifying student loans
    • 35% used their award to fund an undergraduate or graduate degree
    • 5% used their award for training or certifications
    • 8% indicated they used their award in some combination of the above options

City Year Alumni Experiences

Thankfully, there were many alumni willing to share more details about their experience with the Segal Education Award, and I received a wide range of stories ranging from a year abroad in Granada, Spain, to those who didn’t use their award at all. Here are some of the highlights not fully captured in the poll:

“I used mine for a NOLS backpacking course, made possible through a partnership with Western Colorado University! It was an amazing experience and I feel so lucky I got to spend two weeks in the Arctic Circle while earning college credit.” -Sonya F.

“I was able to get a matching scholarship at SIT [School for International Training] graduate institute for their hybrid online program and take some Spanish classes at the community college.” -Emily M.

“Used mine for RN school!” -Alexandra R.

“Mine paid for all my training, enrollment, and equipment to become an EMT and add a NOLS Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals.” -Dawn I.

“I used mine to create a unique graduate experience abroad. I did a higher education study tour through New Zealand with a totally different university than I was attending, but they accepted the credits towards my graduation.” -Anna E.

“I used it to get my EMT License.” -Shelby P.

“Sadly, my award expired before I could figure out how I wanted to further my education…” -Deborah S.

Tax Implications of the Award

Overwhelmingly, most respondents indicated that the Education Award was helpful to them in their career, though some warned of a few pitfalls that they wish they’d known about when they graduated from their AmeriCorps programs. The most common of those being the tax implications of using the Education Award. During the tax year that you use over $600 of your award, it is considered taxable income (yes, even though the government “gave” it to you for your service). This means that if you’re planning to spend it in large chunks, you may end up owing some money on your taxes that year. It certainly shouldn’t stop you from using your Education Award, but it’s something to be aware of so you aren’t unpleasantly surprised when it’s time to do your taxes. Another thing to keep in mind is that you have seven years to take advantage of your Education Award before it expires! 

Think the Education Award would be helpful in jumpstarting your education or career goals or know someone who could benefit? Get in touch to learn more about City Year’s program offerings and start brainstorming how you’ll use YOUR Ed Award! 

Learn more

Dana Buzzelli
Community Partnerships Manager
City Year San Antonio

(Cleveland, 2015)



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