The government might soon give to students for giving back
By REBECCA STRUM
A bill that would compensate students across the country for their volunteer work with federal tuition assistance is currently under Senate review.
The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act would reward student volunteers with grants. Under the proposed legislation, eligible students would qualify for the maximum amount of Pell Grants, which are typically awarded to undergraduates and do not have to be repaid, according to the Committee on Education and Labor Web site.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives on March 18.
If the bill, known as the GIVE Act, passes it would create 175,000 new service jobs, bringing the national number of volunteers to 250,000, according to the site. The amount college students receive depends on financial need, costs of attendance, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
The act is part of President Obama’s goal to reduce the impact of the current economic crisis through creating new service jobs, including four new service groups – a Clean Energy Corps, an Education Corps, a Healthy Futures Corps and a Veterans Service Corps.
Rachel Polansky, graduate assistant in the Syracuse University Office of Engagement Programs in Hendricks Chapel, said that the GIVE Act would aid nonprofit organizations, too.
“It is incredibly difficult for most nonprofit organizations to get volunteer participation,” Polansky said. “Especially in our declining economy where time is money and money is sparse. I think the bill, if passed, will serve as an excellent motivator for students to participate in community service organizations.”
She also said a lot of SU students volunteer because it’s required for a class or by a sorority or fraternity. She said she’s been amazed by the compassion and generosity of students, but the volunteers from SU are not enough.
“Syracuse is a wonderful city, but like any urban area, Syracuse suffers from high unemployment, homeless and poverty rates.” Polansky said. “If this bill is passed and students are given more of an incentive to participate in community building initiatives, it would greatly improve the lives of many Syracuse residents.”
Katie McInerney, a freshman advertising major, said she would volunteer for federal grants because it provides an opportunity to make money for tuition and encourages a healthy work ethic among students.
Of the four new corps added to the service sector, McInerney said she’d want to work in the Education Corps if she received a Pell Grant.
“I like working with children more than adults,” she said. “Volunteer work is time consuming, but any amount of work is worth it if you wouldn’t be in debt when you get out of school.”
Polanksy said she hopes parents will support their kids and encourage them to take advantage of the GIVE Act.
“However, given the status of our economy, I think that programs like GIVE provide parents with options for the high costs of tuition,” she said. “I think it’s a win-win situation.”