Cities Dangle Carrot To Students: Move Here & We’ll Pay Off Your Debt

What’s a great way to get a young, thriving community to pop up in your town and revitalize an area? A little gentle monetary incentive, in the form of offers to pay off student loan debt for young residents moving into the town. Niagara Falls, N.Y. is just one such town trying to entice fresh-faced professionals to move in by paying off part of their debts.

In Niagara Falls, the campaign is being spearheaded by the new director of community development. Communities like his are concerned over shrinking, increasingly older populations, and are willing to try just about anything to get those happening kids to move to town.

“We’ve lost a lot of talent, a lot of brain power,” he says. “For 50 years we’ve been asking ourselves: how do we keep our young people?” The city’s population 50 years ago was 100,000 and it has now fallen to 50,000, causing its leaders to worry about losing certain forms of federal assistance.

The city is putting an initial $200,000 behind the idea. The first applications should arrive in the next couple of months, says Piccirillo, but “The graduating class of 2013 will be our first real swing at it.”

He came up with the idea by reading news headlines about how worrisome college debt is, and figured that young professionals is “the key to a modern economy.” Dangle the carrot of debt relief, and voila! New, young residents.

Under the plan, you must have earned a 2- or 4-year degree in the past two years, and can apply for up to $3,500 a year for two years toward repayment of student loans. Graduate students can also apply. Applicants will then have to rent or buy a home within a designated student area.

“We’re not talking city-wide. We’re taking acres,” he explains. “There’s no doubt in my mind that getting even 100 to 150 people could revitalize the neighborhood.”

Niagara Falls isn’t alone in this kind of venture: Over yonder in Kansas, 50 counties in the state are trying something similar with the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs) that offer new full-time residents either income tax waivers for up to five years and or/student loan repayments of up to $15,000.

The manager of that program says he’s received 338 applicants to date, 111 of which have been people from out of state. He’s now getting applications at the rate of one a day.

“Our hope was that we’d get young professionals to move,” he says. “Physicians, nurses, lawyers, accountants. And that’s what we have seen–health professionals, teachers, veterinarians, accountants and a surprising number of lawyers. Our hope in the beginning was to attract individuals who would have a disproportionate economic impact on a region.”

Student Loans: Cities Offering to Pay Debt to Gain Young Residents [Good Morning America]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dolemite says:

    I’d have to ask why people are leaving in the first place. High taxes? No jobs? Onerous regulations?

    • winstonthorne says:

      I know that it’s jobs w/Niagara Falls – it’s a rust belt city. I’d love to live in Western NY, but there’s no work out there.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The general trends that affect cities of that size — later marrying recent grads are more interested in being in areas where there are more of them as well as more interesting social activities; lack of a critical mass of entry level jobs; lack of industries that draw entry level applicants… plus too many old people.

    • Snapdragon says:

      Definitely lack of jobs beyond retail, or it was at least when I moved away.

    • planetoid says:

      Close proximity to seven (soon eight!) super fund sites? It’s great because parts of the road you don’t even need to plow! The radiation in the roads melts the snow.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Only $200,000? So that would be me and my fiance, and another couple.

    Brilliant idea!!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Yes, I know it’s okay $7k per person total over 2 years. Not much of a dent for someone with $100k in loans. So it’s a poor incentive, unless there are other good reasons to move there, and jobs available that require college degrees. I doubt an engineer would move there for a job at McDonalds, for example.

      • who? says:

        I was thinking the same thing. It might make me send a couple of resumes there that I wouldn’t have otherwise, but $7k over 2 years isn’t going to be enough to convince me to move there unless I already have a job there.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      This was my thought. $200 000 total for the program won’t really put much of a dent in loan debt for a large group of people. Heck it won’t put much of a dent for a small group of people either.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      The $200,000 is only for graduates of the local community college & local university – to get them to stay. The program may grow later to get outsiders to move to NF. If NF’s population falls below 50,000 in the next Census they will lose access to many federal programs & funds.

  3. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    My family had a gift shop in Niagara Falls for a couple generations, it was operated by my great grandparents up until they retired. Last I heard, it’s a parking lot now.


  4. gqcarrick says:

    I’m glad Niagara Falls is trying to do something to stem the loss of population…..I’m just not sure how successful this will be. I wish them luck though.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      They could do better by actually encouraging existing businesses to start hiring more people. The city itself should, too.

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    $7k isn’t a whole lot, I believe the average debt is around $30k – someone correct me if needed. If grads can land jobs in the area that pay comparably or at least close to the national average, or maybe if the cost of living is very low I could see this being wildly popular.

    However, as dolemite pointed out – there may be good reason why educated people left the area in the first place. Maybe a tax incentive would be more compelling, that way they can use the money for whatever they need. Might piss off the locals though.

  6. eturowski says:

    If they’re hoping to attract physicians, veterinarians, and lawyers, a $7K carrot is slim pickings compared to $100K or $200K in loan debt.

  7. chiieddy says:

    This only works if there are jobs for those people in the first place.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Maybe the first step is to offer incentives to businesses.

      People go where the jobs are.

      • nishioka says:

        Yep. Giving people a $7k break isn’t much of an incentive when the average student debt is around four times that and there aren’t any jobs where you want them to move. The incentives need to be targeted as much towards business as they do towards individuals.

        • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

          This is just one incentive & strategy of many that the Niagara Falls Economic Development office is pursuing.

  8. ferozadh says:

    I wish Wonderfalls was still on. It was a great show.

  9. Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

    All of my girlfriends are in the Niagara Falls area

  10. Sasquatch519 says:

    Instead of just handing out taxpayer money, the gov’t should be using the taxpayer money to help create ways for residents to make money. Then people will come. Then more tax dollars come in. Then the cycle repeats.

    • PBallRaven says:

      How about cutting out the extra rxpense of the middleman and just let the taxpayers keep their money and spend it how they choose?

      • Kate says:

        Tax refunds don’t encourage people to create jobs in recessions, people just put it in the bank against the time they will have to move away to a better area.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Niagara Falls NY has blown a lot of money on big tourism related projects over the years. They didn’t work.

  11. coffee100 says:

    “Employers” will respond by firing them all en masse. “Welcome to our community. Let’s see how long you can be young and professional with no job.”

    Two weeks later:

    “Interns wanted. No pay. Graduate degree and five years experience required. Don’t bother complaining because a bunch of dumbasses on the Internet will line up for blocks to defend us.”

  12. TitusThorngate says:

    I’ve long thought that states should do this instead of offering in-state tuition. Who cares where people come from or how long they’ve lived in they’ve lived in the state so long as they stay after they graduate. It would be great for states like Michigan or Ohio that have terrific universities but awful brain drain after graduation.

    • ARP says:

      Good idea. Many scholarships are conditioned on doing something for a few years (teach in an inner city school, etc.). Why not set up the same incentives? You must live in the state for X years and we’ll forgive X of your student loans. That way, there’s a more tangible benefit.

  13. Blueskylaw says:

    Payoff your debt is misleading, they are paying a portion of your debt (unless of course you owe less than $3,500 or $7,000).

    With that said, Niagara Falls is saddled with the highest unemployment rate of any city or town across New York, according to a new breakdown of statewide data. Eleven percent of the workforce in Niagara Falls was unemployed last month, the worst rate registered by any of the 98 communities analyzed by the New York State Labor Department.

    It would be hard to pay your bills and live if you’re unemployed. This just goes to show that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  14. Hartwig says:

    I would think the best way to attract young people and businesses is to improve infrastructure. Tech companies are known to move to smaller towns with cheap/available power and access to high speed/bandwidth internet. Without businesses people want to work for or a lifestyle they can’t get elsewhere what is there to attract/keep them beyond 7k?

  15. Cat says:

    Niagara Falls is part of my 4500 mile road trip that starts Friday.

    We can’t go to the Canadian side, wife’s passport is expired, so we are stuck with the US side. Niagara Falls NY is a shithole, and the road we take to get there smells bad due to all the chemical plants on the river (Love Canal is near there).

    I wish the US side of the falls would get its shit together, it looks like hell.

    • Rainicorn with baby bats says:

      Have to agree with you here. If you can’t walk over the bridge, no point in going to Niagara.

    • Snapdragon says:

      Love Canal isn’t actually anywhere near the river and has been cleaned up for some time (…or so they say), but there is a huge industrial presence on the river (particularly if you drive along the Robert Moses Pkwy or its parallel, Buffalo Ave). I would agree though: the city is not particularly attractive, especially in comparison to the Canadian side. (The park is quite lovely.)

    • planetoid says:

      If you are driving through the area try and catch the Niagara Falls Police Blotter on Shred & Ragan’s Show on Monday am… I’m sure it will make the trip just that more special.

      The last time we went to the Outlet Mall it smelled like dead fish, the Robert Moses is so depressing. Kind of sad, the city had so much potential.

  16. Captain Obvious says:

    The competition for professionals is strong. My niece is going to work for a rural Texas hospital on a 7 year contract during which time she will receive $750,000 in compensation + pay her malprac insurance. Part of the $750k is paying off her $20k of student loans.

  17. dpeters11 says:

    I don’t know, making someone live in a certain designated area is just a bit creepy, even if it is voluntary to participate in the program.

  18. MrEvil says:

    Well, this solves one part of the problem. Getting professionals to move to your city. However, they’re not going to move to Niagara Falls just because the city is repaying student loans. These folks would like to earn a living too. The other half of this equation is to present the city’s incentives to employers telling them how Niagara Falls is attracting the best and brightest to their city and not someplace else. Yes, it sounds a bit chicken and egg, but if you combine this effort to attract graduates with attracting new jobs, you can be a success.

    • sullivanftw says:

      The thing that these places don’t talk about when wanting young people to move there is that young people have a longer time to retirement and thus, can take more risk. Old people don’t start leveraged businesses unless they are independently wealthy. Young people have the ability to, and that *may* create more jobs in the long run. I think it’s worth a try….

  19. Nobby says:

    Wonder how many unemployed “professionals” already live in Niagra Falls? Would love to hear their thoughts on this scheme.

  20. dourdan says:



    NO ONE will be willing to move (unless it’s from with in the state, or a neighboring state) for ONLY 3,500. that is a joke.

  21. El_Cheapocabra says:

    Right. High taxes, no jobs, low salaries (against national averages for most careers), and please move to a crime-ridden neighborhood with terrible public schools that we’ve preselected for you. Start a family here, and your taxes can contribute to the neglect of a national treasure, a.k.a. the sorry state of the American side of the Falls.

    Parts of Niagara Falls are downright dangerous just to drive through. It’s sad to see neglected and abandoned buildings so close to a major tourist attraction. The area is also having trouble keeping teachers for the same reasons. The county added a residency requirement for teachers, yet will not pay them enough to live anywhere but the worst areas. Every time the county does a residency check, there’s at least one excellent teacher who is living just outside the county lines for financial and safety reasons.

  22. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I wonder when someone will start the same program for Detroit. Haven’t they lost about 50% of their population, have large tracts of the city uninhabited, etc.? As population falls, property tax and other revenues fall, services get cut back, more population leaves, and the cycle continues.

    In the county where I live in PA, 54% of the jobs pay more than $10/hr. 46% do not. I’d love to work in my county instead of making a 46 mile round trip commute every day, but I can’t afford it. When my parents pass on, I’m outta here.

  23. CrazyEyed says:

    Where is this supposed housing? The area they are trying to revitalize has vacant, broken or dilapidated buildings. There’s high crime in the area and other than the Seneca Niagara Casino nearby, the whole area is an eyesore. They’d have to be willing to shell out a lot more to help pay off student loans, especially considering there aren’t many jobs nearby. In addition, most students are 30k or higher in student loan debt. Two years of the city paying some of your student loans just barely pays off Community College Degrees. You aren’t going to get 4-year, Graduate or Doctoral students to commit.

  24. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    It will appeal more to local grads – give them an incentive to stay.. .and 2 years is enough time to meet a mate, have a kid, and settle down.

    Niagara Falls is also an easy commute to Buffalo – so it’s an incentive to live in Niagara Falls instead of Buffalo.

  25. JJFIII says:

    The actual way to bring good young talent to a state is simple

    1. Free college education for any person who goes to a high school in that state. The student must be admitted to the school of their choice
    2. Free health care for all people EMPLOYED within the state.

    Businesses will come to that state for the health care and employees will want to be there for the education, It will bring the people who value education as well. The beauty of this is it brings higher paying more professional jobs to an area.

  26. u1itn0w2day says:

    I don’t know that money has to come from somewhere for starters. Will the addition of certain professions along with bigger budgets really offset the lower quality of life at a lower price.

    Sounds like one of these planned communities in the making.

  27. rdaex says:

    Theyd have to pay me a LOT more than that to go to NFNY. Went a couple of years ago.. the park itself is nice, but good LORD the rest of the city is a shitbomb.
    Couldnt find anywhere that took credit/debit… cash only damn near everywhere we went. Couldnt find any decent places to eat, settled on Chilis and Dennys.. hotel across the street from a landfill.
    And, the cherry on top, saw a trashy looking woman in her underwear cracking a case of Busch Light in the parking lot of the liquor store.

  28. StopGougingMeThere! says:

    I live 15 minutes from there. Niagara Falls is a war zone and a blight on New York State due to piss poor management and from being raped for generations by politicians. You couldn’t pay me $100,000 to live there. One town over and it’s like Utopia in comparison.

  29. shinazzle23 says:

    Reminds me of those rural farm towns that offered free homes and land anyone willing to move there.

    That didn’t work out so well.


    Lots of free land, few takers