Eliminate Funding for National Community Service Programs

National community service programs provide financial assistance to students and other volunteers who aid their communities in the areas of education, public safety, the environment, and health care, among others. In fiscal year 2010, appropriations for national service programs totaled about $1.1 billion, which supported the following initiatives: the AmeriCorps Grants Program, the Ameri- Corps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program, the AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program, Learn and Serve America, the National Senior Service Corps, and the National Service Trust. In addition, AmeriCorps receives supplemental funding from state and local governments and from private sources for service projects that, in many cases, build on existing federal, state, and local programs. Participants in the AmeriCorps Grants Program, NCCC, and VISTA may receive an educational allowance, a stipend for living expenses, and access to health insurance and child care subsidies. Learn and Serve America participants generally do not receive such stipends or awards.

This option would eliminate federal funding for national service programs, reducing outlays by $4 billion through 2016 and by $10 billion over the coming 10 years. (Those estimates account for the administrative costs associated with terminating the programs.)

An argument in favor of this option is that funding community service programs by local governments might be more efficient than funding them at the federal level because the benefits of community service accrue locally rather than nationally. From that standpoint, decisions about such programs--the types of service projects to undertake and the amount of funding to provide, for instance--would be made more efficiently by the community that receives the benefits. Another rationale for eliminating student-focused national service programs is that a goal of federal aid to students is to provide low- income people with access to postsecondary education. Because participation in those programs is not based on family income or assets, funds do not necessarily go to the poorest students.

An argument against implementing this option is that the programs provide opportunities for participants of all socioeconomic backgrounds to engage in public service. In addition, relative to other approaches, the programs may offer a cost-effective way of providing community services because of the low budgetary cost per hour of service provided.