College graduates crippled by burdensome student loan debt might want to consider moving to Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Commerce is offering many new, full-time residents some pretty attractive perks. Seventy-seven different counties, which cover most of the state, offer student loan repayments and/or state income tax waivers as an incentive to get people to move there.
The program, called Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ), has been "highly effective" in attracting new residents, Kevin Doel, director of communications at the Kansas Department of Commerce, tells CNBC Make It.
Packing up your stuff and plopping yourself in a new apartment in one of those Kansas counties won't be enough to get that student loan debt wiped out.
In order to be eligible for the student loan repayment program, you must have established residency in the county after July 2011 and on or after the date in which your county opted in to the program, and have obtained either an associate's, bachelor's or post-graduate degree before moving there.
You'll also need to have a "sponsor" available, which could be either your county or employer. Employers "have shown strong interest in using this program as a recruitment tool," Doel says. For example, Kearny County Hospital is currently sponsoring five individuals, he says. Overall, there are currently 58 sponsoring employers. Once you secure your sponsor, your student loan repayment is funded half by that sponsor and half by the state.
"We spent about $2.2 million in student repayment loans last year," Kansas Governor Sam Brownback tells CNBC's "Power Lunch." He also notes that the $2.2 million figure is the state's expenditure, while the other half of the student loan repayment is sponsored locally.
So far, the Kansas Department of Commerce has received over 3,400 ROZ applications for student loan repayment assistance, and over one-third of the applicants are moving to Kansas from out-of-state.
"The ROZ program has also helped over 2,000 Kansans return home and has attracted individuals with a wide range of talents and occupations," Doel tells CNBC Make It. "It has been particularly effective in attracting educators and healthcare professionals. The ROZ applicants have stated the incentives were important in their decision to move to a ROZ county."
Participants in Kansas' program can receive annual payments equal to 20 percent of their outstanding student loan balance, up to maximum of $3,000 per year or $15,000 over the course of five years.
With the current average student loan debt per borrower nationwide at $26,700, according to consumer spending site ValuePenguin, and the amount of student loan debt ballooning over the past decade by more than 250 percent across the U.S., rural towns might have just found the secret to scoring new residents.
The 77 counties participating in the ROZ program also offer a five-year income tax waiver for new residents who have made less than $10,000 in Kansas income within five years prior to moving to the county, with the credit covering 100 percent of the taxpayer's Kansas tax liability.
Currently, the income tax credit is available until tax year 2021, according to Kansas' Department of Revenue. However, there is no indication as to what the Kansas legislature will do beyond that point, Doel says. Last month, President Donald Trump signed into law a sweeping tax overhaul, and along with it, a complex tangle of tax code changes that is still being unpacked.
Data released in March from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that the population in counties outside of metro areas decreased a bit in 2016, making it the sixth straight year of population decline, FiveThirtyEight reports. In light of shrinking populations, a slew of other towns and cities in rural areas of the country also offer financial perks to incentivize people to move there.
In New Richland, Minnesota, for example, you can receive a free lot to build a single-family "dream home," according to a brochure from the town. In order to receive the free land, you must build your new home within one year after the property is deeded to you, and you will be responsible for "special assessment" costs to cover things like water and sewage, which could run between $14,000 to $25,000.
As another type of incentive to attract new residents, Harmony, Minnesota (which boasts a population of 1,000 residents) offers a cash rebate program for home construction. For those building a new home, the Harmony Economic Development Authority will provide a cash rebate ranging from $5,000 to $12,000. There are no restrictions or limits on the applicant's age, income level or residency, either.
"The program has helped create almost $1.1 million in new taxable building value and has gotten us even better mileage as a marketing tool," Chris Giesen, vice president of community and economic development associates (which represents the Harmony Economic Development Authority), tells CNBC Make It.
If you recently tossed your cap into the air and have your heart set on skyscrapers and city living, despite the financial incentives offered by rural areas, you can still be strategic about which spot you settle on. Pick a place where you can make big bucks to help defray those big city expenses.
A report released in May by Trulia and Indeed looks at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and highlights the 10 metro areas where recent college grads earn the most money.
Washington D.C. tops the list, with a median monthly pre-tax income of $3,337, followed by San Jose, California, at $3,333 and San Francisco at $3,250. Other cities in the top 10 include Hartford, Connecticut, and Kansas City, Missouri.
This article has been revised and updated.
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