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Service pays College

Participation in one or two year service programs (US community service, International community service, or Military service) pays tuition.

Photo of Gabriel
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

While this approach to finance college for students could be used by anyone, it will likely be used mostly by low and middle income families. Through service work, students can have their college tuition completely paid for with two years of service or reduce by half with one year of service.

After completion of a federal or state community service program, students will receive free or reduced tuition at any school to which they are accepted. I propose three community service programs; US community service, International community service, or Military service. With two years of service students will receive free tuition and with one year of service students will reduce their tuition by half. 

This is a win all around. Through community service, domestically and abroad, students will gain valuable life skills, which can be applied to college and future jobs. The program will expand already existing service programs to create more positive social exchange. Ultimately, it will help future students by providing them a foundation of service experience and not saddle them with lifelong student debt.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Creating a test-pilot program for recent high school grads to complete one or two years of service in their own community in order to receive free tuition at a university.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Assessing current programs and what kind of community service they provide and what the return on service is (i.e. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, US Military).

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gabriel

Hi Jesse. Thanks for the comment. I remember Barack Obama talking about a similar plan during his campaign. I had high hopes since it is something that I've been thinking about for a long time. Besides the money for college, you bring up one of the most important components of this program, "learning empathy" and "bringing people together." If every American had this experience before attending college, perhaps there would be less division in this country. In response to your question on how to choose the "projects/organizations/communities with which to work," I believe there are already some great models out there, like AmeriCorps, FoodCorps, Peace Corps, etc. that identify and organize with communities. However, my proposal would be to expand the offerings of these and similar organizations and increase the benefits that can be applied to college tuition. I think if individuals decide to stay on for a second year, perhaps that would be a good time for them to do research and identify a particular community and program to work with. Thanks again for your thoughts!

Photo of Jesse Bania

Gabriel, I remember Jon Stewart interviewing Barack Obama toward the end of his tenure as host of the Daily Show, and he brought up this idea of compulsory community service (instead of merely military, as is done in some countries) for one year. Obama loved it, and I thought, "of course!" I think it has potential for bringing people together and naturally imbuing empathy in individuals as they learn and grow. One question I would have for you is how would the projects/organizations/communities with which to work be chosen? Could there be an element of empowerment, whereby the student is able to seek out and select one on his or her own accord (subject to some level of approval) so as to keep the playing field open and diverse?