national service in the stimulus

The final stimulus bill that the president will sign on Tuesday includes $201 million for AmeriCorps, an increase of roughly one fourth. I don’t know whether positions in AmeriCorps programs count as “jobs” and will thus help the president to meet his target of four million jobs created or preserved. At $10,900 for a year’s work, the AmeriCorps stipend is low–as pay. But I would justify putting this item in the stimulus because thousands of young people are missing the educational advantages of work now that the youth unemployment rate is above 21%. AmeriCorps programs provide generally good experiential education in the form of work-like positions that are challenging and inspiring. They can thereby partially compensate for a lack of jobs.

Shirley Sagawa and others are correct that the best measure of AmeriCorps is quality, not quantity. It matters how much participants learn and achieve, not only how many people participate. But I think the quality is high enough today that the $201 million will be well spent.