NAICU Washington Update

Updating National Service Top Priority for Congress and Administration

March 09, 2009

(See related March 9, 2009, USA Today story) 

National service is back. 

Separate proposals in the House, Senate, and the Obama FY 2010 budget would increase the number of national service participants of all ages.  The proposals also would broaden the scope of service, to include more service-learning opportunities, health care awareness. and emergency management.  Plus the new initiatives would broaden eligibility for National Service Education Awards, and would reauthorize the National and Community Service Act for the first time in a decade.

The leading piece of bipartisan legislation is S. 277, the Serve America Act, introduced by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), long-time colleagues in support of national service legislation.

Most importantly for private colleges, the bill creates two new service programs.  Youth Engagement Zones, in which the partnership may include an institution of higher education; and, Campuses of Service, a recognition of up to 30 institutions of higher education each year.

Under the Campuses of Service program, the Corporation for National and Community Service would select the institutions, in consultation with the Secretary of Education.  Those selected would receive grants from state allotments to further their students' pursuit of national and community service opportunities, and ultimately public service employment.  Campuses of Service institutions would also be invited to nominate individual students as possible Serve America Fellows.  Students chosen would be placed in non-profits to pursue projects in areas of national need.

The bill also creates a Serve America Corps, which provides grants to states and non-profit organizations for service projects in low-income communities in five areas:  Clean Energy Service Corps, Education Corps, Healthy Futures Corps, Opportunity Corps, and Encore Program.  Individuals who serve full- or part-time in these efforts would earn National Service Education Awards.  Participants in the Encore Program, for individuals aged 50 and older, would be able to transfer their earned educational benefit to their children or grandchildren.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions plans to hold a hearing on national service March 10.  The House Committee on Education and Labor held a full committee hearing in late February to broadly discuss the topic of national service, given that many service-related bills have been introduced in the House, and the committee expects it to be a major topic in this Congress.

The Obama budget summary for FY 2010 proposes to expand national service to 250,000 participants, and provides more than $1 billion in funding for the Corporation for National Service.  The Administration hopes to get more young people involved in their communities, then using that experience, to get them through college and ultimately into public service and government jobs.  The proposed Encore Program aims at capturing the knowledge, skills, and talents of soon-to-be-retiring baby boomers in service projects across the nation.

As this issue moves through the legislative process, NAICU will monitor key legislative proposals to ensure independent colleges and universities are eligible as partners in community service, and that our students receive all possible educational benefits through these programs to help pay for college.

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