How Hamilton is trying to attract more educated residents: Scholarships

“Reverse scholarships” will be made available to people who move into any of several Hamilton urban neighborhoods, like Rossville, when the people have graduated within the past 7 years and have yet to move into the city. Other neighborhoods are the downtown central business district; Riverview; German Village; and Dayton Lane. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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“Reverse scholarships” will be made available to people who move into any of several Hamilton urban neighborhoods, like Rossville, when the people have graduated within the past 7 years and have yet to move into the city. Other neighborhoods are the downtown central business district; Riverview; German Village; and Dayton Lane. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The Hamilton Community Foundation, hoping to grow the percentages of Hamilton residents who have bachelor’s degrees or higher, plans to start helping recent college or trade-school graduates who move into some city neighborhoods repay their student debt.

Proponents hope the “Talent Attraction Program Scholarships” will help fill job openings in the community that require skilled and educated workers, increase entrepreneurship and support revitalization in the city.

“We hope it will attract some folks into our community who maybe wouldn’t have come without such a program,” said John Guidugli, president and CEO of the foundation.

“Our hope is to make it more of a vibrant community, with folks who are interested in being here, and contribute back into the community as well.”

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Municipal League said she was not familiar with similar programs, or others with the same objective of luring people to their cities, in Ohio.

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Here are the requirements:

  • People cannot live in Hamilton at the time of the application process, which starts March 5.
  • They must have graduated within the past seven years from a "STEAM" program, meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
  • They must have at least $5,000 in outstanding student debt.
  • They must move into Hamilton's urban core, which includes the specific neighborhoods of Downtown/Central Business District; Riverview; Greman Village; Dayton Lane; or Rossville.
  • They must demonstrate employment in the greater Hamilton area or Butler County.

Here’s one group that can qualify: Native Hamiltonians who went away to college far away and want to return to the city.

Those who win the scholarships can receive up to $5,000, or $200 per month over 25 months, Guidugli said.

To apply for scholarships, people can go to www.hamiltonfoundation.org/scholarship to complete online applications.

Early last year, a man employed by the city government’s fellowship program argued the city’s low education levels put Hamilton at risk of being left behind by the globalized economy. Glenn Holmes at the time told City Council, “Less than two decades ago, at the turn of the century, our poverty rate was only 13 percent. Today more than one in five Hamiltonians live in poverty.”

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Katie Braswell, vice president of the foundation, said the scholarship program is an effort to help city government with the economic-development strides it has been making in the community.

The foundation has $50,000 set aside for the program so far and hopes people will contribute more to it.

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“I believe this is a really big deal, and from what I have researched, this is the only scholarship like this in our area,” City Manager Joshua Smith said.

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

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Officials know of only a few similar programs, in St. Clair County, Mich., which offers the “Come Home Award Fund” to attract young people back home, and western New York. They believe it will be the first in Ohio to offer such a scholarship.

In Kansas, 77 counties have “Rural Opportunity Zones” that can either give income-tax waivers for up to five years or student-loan repayments of up to $15,000.

Hamilton City Council this week plans to consider legislation officially endorsing the program, but the city does not plan to contribute to, or operate the program, officials said.

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