Got Student Debt? Move Fast, and Some Cities Will Help You Pay It Off


Chris Harris, who runs the program, says he has received 389 applications to date. Of those, he estimates about 75 percent will qualify for one or both of the incentives, which are jointly funded by the state government and participating counties. In October, the first round of payments will be distributed to 160 residents, many of whom have ties to the region.

"Given that there wasn't something else to model this program after, I would say we're very encouraged by what we've seen," Mr. Harris says.

To qualify for loan repayments, applicants must have earned an associate's, bachelor's, or postgraduate degree; carry an outstanding student loan balance; and lived in an ROZ county since July 1, 2011.

To earn Kansas income tax waivers, applicants must have claimed residency in a ROZ county on or after July 1, 2011, and have lived outside Kansas for at least five years prior. Additionally, they cannot have earned more than $10,000 from a Kansas employer in those five years.

Harris says 75 percent of applicants are seeking employment in the health-care, education, finance, or legal sectors. Interest in manufacturing, engineering, and agriculture areas is also common, he says.

"There are opportunities in those sectors in practically every part of the state," he says. "If a person had the expectation that there weren't opportunities in these regions, they'd be surprised if they were to look into them."

Areas with high unemployment in Kansas don't suffer from a lack of jobs but rather from finding people to hold those positions, he adds.

It's not only local governments that are spearheading ways to attract young adults, though. In Detroit, organizations have committed to revitalizing the downtown area. One is the Hudson Webber Foundation, which aims to attract 15,000 young adults to the city by 2015. Dubbed the "15 by 15" initiative, a patchwork of nonprofits, philanthropists, and business executives is pioneering efforts ranging from creating job opportunities to boosting safety for residents.

"The goal for us was to articulate a vision that our stakeholders in the community shared," said Katy Locker, vice president of programs for Hudson Webber Foundation. "We're focusing on a targeted area, our greater downtown, and building that place to attract and retain talent."

One of the foundation's highlights has been the "Live Downtown" initiative, in which employees at certain companies – such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Quicken Loans – receive perks for living in downtown Detroit. Incentives include up to a $20,000 forgivable loan toward the purchase of a home or a $2,500 allowance for first-year apartment renters.

Jake Marmul, who works at Quicken Loans in Detroit, is benefiting from the $2,500 rental subsidy. A Michigan native and 2011 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he had his sights set on living in Detroit but had trouble finding an affordable apartment near the Woodward area, where many of Detroit's cultural attractions are located. After learning last summer about the "Live Downtown" program, Mr. Marmul moved into a studio in May that overlooks Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers stadium.

"I probably have more friends that live in Chicago, but for the amount of money I'm spending and my location, there's just no way I could do that in any other city," Marmul says.

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