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As more and more Americans find themselves underemployed or unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic, some are pointing to national service programs as a possible solution.
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A national service program is funded by the government and employs volunteers (who are often paid at a low rate) to do community work at home and abroad.
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Two major examples are AmeriCorps, which focuses on helping youth, preparing for disasters and other goals in the United States, and the Peace Corps, which sends young Americans to serve abroad. Part of the Peace Corps' purpose is to "promote a better understanding of Americans."
The Peace Corps withdrew its international volunteers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, which focuses on helping senior citizens, responded to the virus crisis by providing more than 2.5 million meals and conducting 100,000 wellness checks as of mid-June.
Roger Hull, the former president of Union College and Beloit College, has proposed using national service programs to provide tuition-free college because many Americans are worried about their student loans even in light of federal relief.
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"A need-based cancelable loan program tied to service would be a win for all," Hull wrote for Inside Higher Ed earlier in June. "Students would attend college tuition-free. Fewer private colleges would collapse. States would have to spend less to accommodate transfering students, and communities would be strengthened."