Start Packing Your Boxes: Small Cities Trading Student Loan Debt for Residency

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Raise your hand if you feel like you’ve got a handle on your student loan debt. If you’re anything like me, you probably moved with the lack of vigor equivalent to a loose handshake from a recent college grad on his first job interview. Don’t get me wrong – my debt is organized. I make my monthly payment, I have an understanding of my long term plan, and I watch the total balance tick away ever so slowly.

But, my monthly student loan repayment routine doesn’t take the immense weight of my debt off of my shoulders. It’s there, lingering. Remember Peter Pan’s pesky shadow? That’s my student loan debt – except instead of playing tricks, this shadow throws shade on how much my mild coffee addiction is costing me each month. The point is, my debt is there. It’s ever present and constantly impacting the larger choices I make in life, like buying home and starting a family. And, I know I’m not alone in this. Student loan debt is at an all time high and while there is $121 billion in student loans in default right now, there are plenty of people like me out there – getting by, just barely.

So, what lengths would you travel to improve your student loan struggles? What if you could move to a new city and receive money towards your student loan in return? Would you take the leap? The answer to our student loan woes may lie in small town, USA where cities are developing loan forgiveness programs to attract the new and growing millennial population. These programs seek to combat the trend of declining populations in small cities and boost economic growth, while simultaneously luring burdened borrowers for some debt relief . So, where can I head to have my coffee and pay my student loan debt, too?


Kansas’s Rural Opportunity Zones are 77 counties that offer student loan repayments up to $15,000 and income tax waivers for up to five years. According to Fortune, in 2015 alone Rural Opportunity Zones provided $1.2 million in student loan repayments – hello Topeka!

In order to qualify you must:

-Establish residency after July 1, 2011,

-Hold an associates, bachelors, or graduate degree

-Have an outstanding student loan balance

Niagara Falls, NY

The Live NF program is a two-year incentive program to promote urban renewal in targeted areas of downtown Niagara Falls. The program will contribute up to $3,492 per year and up to $6,984 during the full two-year term of agreement. The city is looking for urban pioneers to maximize the potential of urban areas.

In order to qualify you must:

-Have graduated with a two-year degree OR

-Have graduated with bachelor’s degree OR

-Be enrolled in a post-graduate degree at the time of application

While these programs seem almost too good to be true, they are a realistic and creative solution for two major issues: student loan debt and population decline in small cities. But, before hitting the road you may want to consider the following:

-Moving costs

-The cost of living in your new city

-Job opportunities in rural areas

-Requirements for each program

For a less radical change, stay proactive. For more information on federal student loans visit www.mycreditcounselor.net

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About Andrew Weber, NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor

Andrew Weber is a NACCC Certified Credit Counselor and a NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor. He is the only certified student loan Counselor who specializes exclusively on private student loan issues in the US. He's helped hundreds of borrowers drastically reduce their debts.