Niagara Falls to help pay off student loans

Flickr user Kevin Timothy

(MoneyWatch) My parents spent their honeymoon in Niagara Falls in the 1950s, but after that they never returned.

That happens a lot in Niagara Falls. People visit the tiny upstate New York landmark, but they don't stay. In fact, many residents aren't hanging around either. In the past 50 years, the town has lost half its population and is now down to roughly 50,000 residents.

What Niagara Falls covets is a little young blood, and the city has recently announced that it is willing to pay for it. The city has rolled out a program that will help recent college graduates pay off their student loans if they move there.

The plan guarantees $7,000 in student loan repayments over two years to 20 college graduates from anywhere in the U.S. who relocate to Niagara Falls. The city has received more than 200 inquiries about the offer. Grads who are approved must rent an apartment or buy a home in the downtown area.

Seth Piccirillo, the city's community development director, was quoted in "The Christian Science Monitor" explaining what he perceives as a win-win proposition. "We know that we need these young professionals in Niagara Falls to compete in the future," he said. "At the same time, we know that these college graduates are starting off with this debt in a difficult economy. We wanted to figure out a program that would benefit both."

It will be fascinating to see if the Niagara Falls program works. If it does, I'm sure there are plenty of other struggling cities that would like to take advantage of the student loan crisis to attract young professionals.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Timothy

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