Hamilton’s proposed “live here” scholarship program called ‘cutting edge’

The Hamilton Community Foundation’s proposed Talent Attraction Scholarship Fund, which will help recent college and trade-school grads pay down their student loans if they move into the city of Hamilton, drew praise Wednesday from two members of city council.

Under the plan, the foundation will pay up to $5,000 for such graduates who have finished their programs during the past seven years with degrees in science, technology, engineering, arts or math or who have completed education in the skilled trades.

Council Member Kathleen Klink, a former Lakota schools superintendent, thanked the community foundation for creating the program. City council considered legislation about the program Wednesday during the first of two meetings, even though the city will not fund or administer the “reverse scholarships.”

“Thank you to the Hamilton Community Foundation for creating an opportunity,” Klink said. “The fact that we have a mechanism in place that can say to those who have graduated from college and have some debt, ‘You can come to our community and select one of these many different neighborhoods to reside in, and we will find a way to support your paying off that debt, through these scholarships.’ I just think that’s magnificent.”

Mayor Pat Moeller called the program, “cutting edge, out-of-the-box, doing-something-different” that will help build up the city.

According to recent U.S. Census data, 15.1 percent of Hamilton residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Hamilton Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson wrote that the city has seen a decline in recent college graduates. Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate prior residence within greater Hamilton or can show their immediate family now lives in the area. They cannot be living in the greater Hamilton area when they apply. They must move into the downtown area, or other specific urban neighborhoods.

Recipients must owe at least $5,000 in student debt and can receive up to that amount, payable in 25 monthly installments of $200.

To learn more about the program, or to contribute, go to www.hamiltonfoundation.org.

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