Hamilton program to lure new college grads gains nationwide attention

A program that will pay down the student loans of recent college graduates who move into Hamilton has received national exposure in recent weeks.

The Journal-News first reported in January that the Hamilton Community Foundation, hoping to grow the percentages of Hamilton residents who have bachelor's degrees or higher, planned to start helping recent college or trade-school graduates who move into some city neighborhoods repay their student debt.

MORE: Hamilton endorses debt payoffs for recent grads who move in

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.

The Talent Attraction Program Scholarships, proponents said, will help fill job openings in the community that require skilled and educated workers, increase entrepreneurship, and support revitalization in the city.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting Hamilton's program and other similar incentives offered in Grant County, Ind., and North Platte, Neb.

A strong economy, an aging population and an exodus of younger workers have triggered severe labor shortages, according to the Wall Street Journal article.

On Friday night, NBC Nightly News aired a story about small towns getting creative in the way they attract workers and highlighted the Community Foundation's student debt payoff incentive as well as the city's paid fellowship program.

Calling the city "a former paper mill boom town," NBC Nightly News said smaller towns nationwide are losing younger workers to bigger cities.

CLOSER LOOK: Local college grads talk about the burden of student debt

Liz Hayden, Hamilton’s Director of Planning who was raised in St. Louis, was interviewed for the NBC story.

“The charm and sense of community here is what keeps you here,” said Hayden, who was a part of Hamilton’s fellowship program herself before becoming a city employee.

"I always joke that Hamilton just gets its hooks in you and keeps you," she told NBC Nightly News as footage of her inside True West Coffee and Sara's House were shown.

Hamilton’s student debt payoff program does not authorize the city to administer or spend money on the scholarships. The Hamilton Community Foundation uses money it has or donations for the program.

The Hamilton Community Foundation believes their program is the first in Ohio. A few similar programs exist in St. Clair County, Mich., and western New York.

To learn more about Talent Attraction Program Scholarships, click here.

This article contains previous reporting by staff writer Mike Rutledge.

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