Call to aid students fighting terrorism

November 16, 2001

Two United States senators have proposed extra financial aid for university students who undertake short-term military enlistments and anti-terrorism work.

Republican senator and Vietnam-era Navy pilot John McCain and Democrat senator Evan Bayh have called for a five-fold increase in the size of the existing AmeriCorps programme, which offers university tuition to students who volunteer to do such things as helping teach poor children to read, building affordable housing and responding to natural disasters.

AmeriCorps is in effect a domestic Peace Corps that involves 40,000 Americans each year in more than 1,000 social projects. After completing their term of service, students receive education awards worth up to $4,725 (£3,250) to help finance college or pay back student loans.

Under the proposal, the programme would be expanded to encourage students to work with police and in hospitals and public health facilities, many of which face increased demand at the same time that their employees have been called back to military duty.

Senators McCain and Bayh also want university tuition benefits given to Americans who serve in the military to be doubled to $15,600 a year, and for benefits to be extended to those on short-term service of 18 months on active duty, rather than the minimum four years required now.

"I've talked to a lot of young Americans who wanted to serve before September 11, and a whole lot more want to serve now," Senator McCain said.

That is backed up by a Harvard University study, which found that nearly four out of five college students support the airstrikes in Afghanistan. Two-thirds of the students said they trusted the government, twice as many as in the year before.

Seventy-one per cent of male students surveyed by Harvard's Institute of Politics said they would serve in the military if the draft were reinstated and they were selected. Almost three-quarters of the 1,200 students polled had donated blood, given money, or volunteered in relief efforts.

That is not to say that all American students support the war. A new Student Peace Action Network has grown from 80 campuses before September to more than 300 today.

Details: www.americorps.org

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