Niagara Falls attracts over eight million visitors every year, but if a scheme by the city of Niagara Falls, New York, works out, the area could become a magnet for more than tourists. According to The Buffalo News, the city recently announced plans to pay up to $3,500 per year of the student loans of recent graduates of both two and four-year degree programs if they commit to living in a specific neighborhood a few blocks from the falls.
Only about 50,000 residents live in Niagara Falls and the median age is 39. With an older population, the city is eager to attract younger residents. The stakes are pretty high. If the population dips further, Niagara Falls will lose eligibility for some federal programs. The city is also trying to switch from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy, and young graduates will be critical for that effort.
Since the average graduate comes out of school with $25,000 in debt, the city decided to offer to pay the loans as a carrot to get a younger population to move into the area. Graduates would simply need to rent an apartment or buy a home in the area. They have to make the loan payments upfront, but after a year the city will cut them a check reimbursing them.
The city hopes to get 20 applicants to the program this year and figures most will probably come from Niagara University and Niagara County Community College. But the prospect of having $7,000 in loans paid for could be appealing to residents outside of the area too. "We want to show the area and the rest of the country how serious we are about attracting young professionals," said community development director Seth A. Piccirillo. "We know they have the potential to change a neighborhood." If it does work out, this could be a model that other small cities should consider to lure younger college-educated workers to town.
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