WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As federal student loan repayments begin, Kansans have an opportunity to get help with their loans.
More than 90 of the 105 counties in Kansas are considered Rural Opportunity Zones. The Kansas Office of Rural Prosperity says those counties offer one or both of the following incentives to new full-time residents:
- Student loan repayment assistance and/or
- 100% state income tax credit.
The program was created in 2012 to help rural counties dealing with decreasing population. But the program director says it can help in other ways, too.
“The thought is now that not only can it address depopulation, but it can also be used to help fill those critical positions that keep businesses thriving and growing in our rural communities,” Trisha Purdon, Office of Rural Prosperity director, said.
She said the program has been successful, helping counties grow and helping college graduates repay loans.
“They’re in the program for five years, and then they fall out,” Purdon said. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve had, you know, almost 1,000 people that have participated in the program.”
She said that after a person lives in a place long enough, they often want to stay.
“If you’ve lived in a town for five years, hopefully you’ve met a spouse if you haven’t already and maybe they’ve had children and they’re already in school,” she said. “And so that’s kind of the opportunity where we see nationwide, that once someone moves to a community they tend to stay.”
About 275 people are currently participating in Rural Opportunity Zones, but there is room for 500.
- You must have a newly established permanent address in a participating county (see map here), so long as that address was established after the county began participating in the program.
- Applicants must have an active student loan balance in their name, as well as an associate’s, bachelor’s or post-graduate degree prior to moving to the participating county.
- To apply, you will need to provide proof of domicile in the Rural Opportunity Zone county, proof of previous permanent residency (before earning your degree), transcripts with degree dates and student loan balance with distribution dates.
The application deadline is Sept. 30. If you miss the deadline, the program will begin accepting more applications in January.
To learn more about the program and to apply, click here.