Frequently Asked Questions for Policymakers

What is a service year?

A service year is a paid opportunity to develop real-world skills through hands-on service. This life-changing experience is a chance to impact the lives of others and drive change in communities.

What is the role of the federal government in supporting service years?

All sectors — government, philanthropic, and business - have roles to play in supporting service years. Strong support for national service programs like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and YouthBuild from the federal government helps match that from other sectors. Federal support is especially important when using service years to address national priorities with evidence-based programs; offering extra support in order to give opportunity youth the chance to serve; and supporting grassroots solutions to local challenges in high-poverty areas. 

Do Americans support national service?

  • Overall Voter Support for National Service[1]
    • 80 percent of voters would like to maintain or increase the federal investment in national service, including 78 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.
    • 67 percent of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who releases a plan to place an AmeriCorps member in every low-performing school in America.
    • 61 percent of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who would guarantee funding to establish a service position for every qualified national service applicant.
  • Support for the National Service Experience[2]
    • 88 percent of Americans believe that national service can teach young people the importance of discipline and hard work.
    • 84 percent of Americans believe that national service can teach young people how to help communities prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters.
    • 84 percent of Americans believe that national service can teach young people to understand the importance of helping others and giving back.
  • Support for National Service Addressing Issues[3]
    • Over 90 percent of voters support service in the following areas to address challenges facing our country:
      • Mentoring or tutoring students in lower performing schools
      • Assisting military families and veterans who are adjusting back into civilian life
      • Cleaning up rivers, parks, and blighted public areas
      • Helping communities prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters
      • Providing job training skills to boost economic opportunities for low-income Americans 

Is national service cost-effective?

  • Every federal dollar invested in AmeriCorps is matched by more than two dollars from donations and in-kind support from non-CNCS sources, including business and philanthropy.[4]
  • In 2015, CNCS generated $1.26 billion in outside resources from private businesses, foundations, and other sources — an amount exceeding the federal appropriation.[5]
  • For every one dollar the federal government invests in national service, there is a nearly four dollar return on investment.[6]
  • Federal agencies can utilize corps members to perform duties that align with agency missions at a low cost, like FEMA Corps, which is estimated to save $60 million annually.
  • States and local communities can utilize corps members to address local challenges or crises and to revitalize and rebuild communities.

Does national service lead to careers?

  • National service helps put opportunity youth — the nearly 5 million young people who are neither in school nor working — on a path toward education or a career. Some national service programs enable opportunity youth to earn their diploma or GED while serving simultaneously, and others act as workforce development tool for opportunity youth by giving them valuable on-the-job training in skills that are connected with career pathways.
  • National service helps young people better define their career pathways and assists them in moving to the next step. Forty-three percent of AmeriCorps alumni state that their service year was aligned with their career path, and 79 percent say that their service year was a defining professional experience.[7]
  • National service helps young people develop into leaders, problem solvers, and more active citizens. Nine out of ten AmeriCorps alumni reported that their service year experience improved their ability to solve problems. Additionally, eight of out ten alums that if they were confronted with a community issue, they could confidently develop a plan to address it and get others to care. In addition, 94 percent of alumni are registered to vote, well above the national average.[8] 
  • National service is a powerful workforce development tool that has the power to lead to careers by providing young people with tangible skills — especially career-specific skills for self-management and interacting with others.[9]

Do employers value and hire young people who do national service?

  • National service is backed by over 450 “Employers of National Service” who highly value the skills individuals gain during their service and bring to the workplace.
  • On average, nine out of ten AmeriCorps alumni agreed or strongly agreed that they could solve difficult problems, persist when opposed, accomplish goals, handle unexpected events and unforeseen situations, remain calm, cope with difficulties, and identify multiple solutions. Alumni rated their current skills as higher than at pre-service, with the greatest gains being in their abilities to deal with unexpected events and unforeseen situations.[10]
  • A recent LinkedIn survey of hiring managers revealed that 59 percent believe that these highly valued soft skills are difficult to find.[11]

How does national service impact higher education and civic engagement?

  • Service years done through AmeriCorps help pay for higher education by providing access to education awards that can be used to pay for college tuition or to pay down student loan debt. To date, AmeriCorps alums have earned more than $3.3 billion to help with college costs.[12]More than $1 billion of scholarship funds have gone to repay students loans.[13]
  • Individuals who complete a service year with AmeriCorps reported high levels of civic engagement and civic self-efficacy, and indicated that their AmeriCorps experience influenced their civic engagement.[14] 


[1] Voices for National Service/TargetPoint Consulting Memo, December, 2015, updated December, 2016

[2] “Service Year Qualitative Research Report,” and “Service Year Quantitative Research Report,” Penn Schoen Berland, July 2015.

[3] “Voices for National Service Presidential Battleground Poll,” Voices for National Service and TargetPoint Consulting, October 2015. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/servicenation/pages/911/attachments/original/1447190383/TargetPoint_National_Service_Battleground_State_Survey_(1).pdf?1447190383.

[4] Data from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)

[6] Source: The Economic Value of National Service,” Clive Belfield. Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education Teachers College, Columbia University, September 2013.

Frequently Asked Questions for Policymakers on #NationalService #LetUsServe
Frequently Asked Questions for Policymakers
Together we have the potential to make a #serviceyear a common expectation and opportunity for all