College money for public service? UC Berkeley students soon can apply

Two studenrts pull weeds on Berkeley Project Day, a student-run day when volunteers from campus help out in the community.

Among the benefits of completing 450 hours of public service with the state’s new CaliforniansForAll College Corps is a $10,000 award — a $7,000 stipend, or living allowance, plus a $3,000 education award — and academic credit. (UC Berkeley photo by Kevin Ho Nguyen)

As part of a historic, service-based college program launched in California this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, 100 UC Berkeley students will be chosen to receive $10,000 fellowships during the 2022-2023 academic year, and 120 more students in 2023-2024, to help pay their college costs in exchange for 450 hours of public service.

The state’s new CaliforniansForAll College Corps selected 45 campuses that represent the University of California, California State University, California’s community colleges and private university systems following a competitive grant application process.

Up to 6,500 college-goers statewide — including AB 540-eligible Dreamers — will be part of the program, which seeks to help students from diverse backgrounds graduate on time and with less debt while building leadership skills and civic responsibility as they work with community-based organizations.

“California is a world leader in both higher education and service, … We hope the Corps will be replicated across the nation,” said Newsom at a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

A UC Berkeley student paints the door frame of a childcare center during a volunteer efforts organized by Berkeley students.

On the campus’s annual Berkeley Project Day, more than 1,000 UC Berkeley students self-organize and volunteer in the community with tasks including rehabbing homes for people in need, cleaning streets and parks, and sprucing up childcare centers. (UC Berkeley photo by Kevin Ho Nguyen)

At Berkeley, a team of partners that includes staff from the Public Service Center, staff and faculty from the School of Social Welfare, and staff from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions was formed after the corps issued a call for proposals, said Jill Duerr Berrick, Zellerbach Family Foundation Professor at Berkeley Social Welfare. After a few planning meetings, she said, faculty and staff from the schools of education, public health and law, and from the College of Natural Resources joined the process “with a ‘yes, we can’ attitude … and developed a solid plan to design and implement an incredible program to benefit our students and our communities.”

Berrick said the fellowships will be especially helpful to Berkeley’s low-income and Dreamer students “who often struggle to make ends meet. … With the cost of living in the Bay Area, coupled with the cost of college attendance, our students need new strategies that provide financial support while simultaneously deepening their college experience.”

According to a news release from California Volunteers, the state office tasked with engaging Californians in service, volunteering and civic action, nearly 4 million Californians owe $147 billion in student debt. California Volunteers also administers the AmeriCorps programs in California and CaliforniansAll, a volunteer effort that addresses the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. FGavin Newsom sits on a sofa and looks at the camera during a news conference on Jan. 18, 2022. He's wearing a suit and tie and announcing the launch of a corps of college students who will receive $10,000 each to help with college costs by working 450 hours of public service.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the launch of the CaliforniansForAll College Corps at a news conference on Zoom on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. (California Volunteers image)

“The living stipend and education award through CaliforniansForAll College Corps will significantly reduce student debt burden and will allow more first generation, low-income, and undocumented students to get involved in community work,” said Sandra Bass, associate dean of students and director of the campus’s Public Service Center. “They are the students most affected by inequities and the ones best positioned to catalyze real change.”

The Public Service Center will coordinate Berkeley’s partnership with the corps. The critical issues that the Berkeley fellows will tackle through their service work will be climate change, K-12 education, food insecurity, and child and youth behavioral health.

Historically at Berkeley, “there is so much amazing community-based work going on,” said Carrie Donovan, assistant director of the Public Service Center. “This is a chance for Cal students to connect with a passion for social justice, apply what they’re learning in classes, and build their professional network in the community — all while earning a stipend and an education award.

“It’s a win for students and for the community partnerships that will benefit from their engagement.”

Bags of groceries were packed on April 21 for Berkeley staff and students in need.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers at Crossroads Dining Hall packed grocery bags for needy members of the campus community. The bags were taken to pick-up sites around UC Berkeley and also delivered to students who couldn’t leave their homes. (Photo by Natalia Gillis Semeraro)

Berrick said the campus partners who put together a plan for the fellowships will decide in the next few months how the first 100 students will be chosen this spring for the 2022-2023 cohort, which will have August 2022 through July 2023 as its service year. The second cohort’s service year will be August 2023 through June 2024.

The CaliforniansForAll College Corps’ website says the state program anticipates that each of the 45 schools will provide its students with application information by March 2022.

Among the benefits of completing 450 hours of service with the corps is the $10,000 award —a $7,000 stipend, or living allowance, plus a $3,000 education award — and academic credit, for which the amount and type will be determined by each fellow’s college or university.