Cities Look To Attract Residents By Paying Their Student Loans

Niagara Falls, New York (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Niagara Falls, New York (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

Looking to pay off your student loans? Then why not move to Niagara Falls, N.Y.?

The small city in upstate New York is offering a surprising incentive to attract new residents.

Facing a shrinking population, the city has launched the Live NF program, which will pay 20 recent college graduates to live in its community.

The city will reimburse up to $3,492 a year of a participant’s student loan for two years. So far, they have had 42 applicants from around the country and have just announced their first five winners.

“It’s a great thing,” Bobbie Thoman, one of the winners, told the Niagara Gazette. “Who doesn’t want their loans paid back?”

With the program costing the city $200,000, the goal is to bring the vanishing city back to life. The once-booming industrial town began to see a decline in the 1960s when manufacturing jobs dried up. Although it has one of the country's most spectacular tourist attractions, the town never blossomed as a tourist destination the way the Canadian side has.

Over the decades, the population dropped in half – to 50,106 in 2010. If it falls below at number by the 2020 U.S. Census, Niagara Falls risks losing HUD federal entitlement funding.

“Hopefully, this program will be successful,” added Thoman. “But in the event that it’s not, we’ll be able to look back and say we genuinely tried. What more can you ask for?”

According Niagara Falls director of community development Seth Piccirillo, the city has already been contacted by five others that want to learn more about the project.

In 2011, Kansas launched a similar program with its Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs), which identified 50 counties where the state would like to increase the population.

Very similar to the program in Niagara Falls, the only requirements to the Kansas program are a college degree, an outstanding student loan balance and the establishment of residency in one of the ROZs.

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