The Peace Corps Announces Record-Breaking Application Numbers in 2014

In the fiscal year ending 9.30.2013, Peace Corps applications were at an all time low, at 10,091. The total of serving Volunteers on September 30, 2013 was 7209.  Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet announced an ambitious goal of doubling the number of application for fiscal year 2014, which ended this September 30, 2014. The Director streamlined the application process, and personally toured college campuses touting the value of Peace Corps service, as well as initiating a media campaign promoting Peace Corps. While not quite doubled, the effort has resulted in an  recent historic high number of applications at 17,336.

The increase occurred despite the negative publicity associated with the New York Times article describing the medical care received by serving PCV Nick Castle (See: http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/trail-of-medical-missteps-in-a-peace-corps-death-–-nytimes-july-25-2014/) and the ongoing negotiations between the Peace Corps and the Office of the Peace Corps Inspector General over the implementation of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act.

The world situation has dramatically worsened in the last few months and what impact that may have is not known. Potential Volunteers  may have decided to postpone their application until the world appeared safer. Or, some may have applied precisely because they felt if ever the world needed to see the positive and peaceful face of America, it was now.Here is the press release from the Peace Corps.

Applications reach 22-year high for the agency

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 8, 2014 – Today the Peace Corps announced that 17,336 Americans applied for two-year service positions in fiscal year 2014 – a 22-year high for the agency and an increase in applications of more than 70 percent over last year. In 1992, the Peace Corps received 17,438 applications, with the next highest number of applications received in 1979 at 18,159. Today’s announcement follows historic changes to Peace Corps’ application and selection process that have made applying to the Peace Corps simpler, faster, and more personalized than ever before.

“This milestone reminds us that Americans today want to serve others and make a difference, and we are making great strides to reduce barriers to service and modernize the Peace Corps,” Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “There is great demand for Peace Corps volunteers around the world, and our reforms have better positioned us to offer assignments where volunteers have the most interest in serving and are able to make the greatest contribution.”

In July 2014 when these changes were launched, the agency saw an increase in applications of more than 400 percent over July 2013 and the highest total number of applications received in one month in more than 15 years. Applicants can now choose their country of service and apply to specific programs through a new, shorter application that can be completed in less than one hour. The recruitment reforms cut red tape, increase transparency and reduce uncertainty to deliver a better experience for Peace Corps applicants so they can choose the path that best fits their personal and professional goals.

Since the reforms were implemented, 54 percent of all applicants have selected the option to serve anywhere they’re needed, and 49 percent have selected the option to serve in any of Peace Corps’ six work sectors.

The agency is revitalizing its recruitment and outreach and modernizing its operations after losing a number of qualified candidates because of a burdensome application process. In 2013, only 23 percent of those who started the application submitted it. Now, approximately 95 percent of those who start the application are submitting it.

Hessler-Radelet, who was sworn in as the agency’s 19th director in June and comes from a four-generation Peace Corps family, has led one of the most extensive reform efforts the agency has ever undertaken. In addition to recruitment reforms, the Peace Corps has dramatically improved the quality of support it provides to volunteers, overhauled its technical training and programming, and strategically targeted its resources and country presence to maximize impact.

Prospective applicants can browse service opportunities by country, work area and departure date at peacecorps.gov/openings/.

The Washington Post had an article on the increase, including comments from readers.  Here is the link to that text:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/peace-corps-applications-surge-amid-recent-reforms/2014/10/08/c26c562c-4e8d-11e4-8c24-487e92bc997b_story.html

4 Comments

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  • I was in Ghana 1 in 1961 the first of several PC cohort groupings to go abroad (end of Aug 1961 landing in Accra via Dakar and the Azores coming from Washington DC where we had been brought to the White House to meet John F Kennedy first in the Rose Garden and then one by one at his desk in the Oval Office). We were 50. Young, mostly in our 20’s, meeting this new adventure much the way we’d done up to then — just open to life as we were experiencing it. It was a beautiful life, we were a charmed generation as I see it now. We believed in progress and in the basic goodness of all persons. I still do. It seems there was a stranger inside of me, an intruder, who was not me, yet part of me, who swallowed as I drank: I’ve lived as if he’ll die when I die. Or so I thought. I now begin to see that our ‘strangers’ within us are the sharpie fine pointed pens we thought “we” wrote with but really are the life force, forces who lead, encourage, lift us through our nights. Who or what this is baffles me, but it is not mythic, it is really here now. We pass out of the picture we think of as history, but this life force continues. While we live we are stewards, mechanics, actors, helpers — and we matter, our actions matter, our thoughts matter.
    In our end all our beginnings are organized into this great matter.
    Edward Mycue, Thursday, Oct 9, 2014/ 9:56AM

  • This is not a ‘new day’ at the Peace Corps. Congress has been voting to increase the budget since the ’70s, so that there would be 10,000+ PCVs, but we never get there, under any administration, as the $$$ isn’t given to the agency.

    I have followed all the changes to recruitment since the early days (1964-65) when I did Blitz Recruiting at the Peace Corps and all the staff in Washington recruited on college campuses. Later, for 6 years, I ran the New York Recruitment Office.

    I have also been involved with colleges recruitment as Communications Manager at The College of New Rochelle and before that at SUNY Old Westbury as Dean of Students and College Admissions Director.

    Today on campuses across the country, we have on-line apps and a common application. That is not helping enrollment. Colleges are dropping SATs as an entrance exam as there is a serious decline in college-age-students, So, colleges are actively recruiting in China and elsewhere for students. They need to fill seats.

    The Peace Corps doesn’t need to fill seats. The agency gets the Apps with the new easy application, but they won’t grow the number of PCVs overseas without an increase in the agency’s budget. This Congress, or the next Republican one won’t give them the money.

    Sad but true.
    John Coyne

  • Thank you, John, for your observations. You are certainly the expert for recruiting in general and Peace Corps, specifically.

  • I see now my comment was way ‘off-page’. John Coyne is spot-on.
    Feeling all ‘alice blue gown’ then I went off on a butter lettuce trip.

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