“Reverse scholarships” for college graduates returning to live in Republic County.
In 2011 the Kansas Department of Commerce (KDOC) designated Republic County a Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) county based on population decline in the last decade. One of the incentives offered in this program is Student Loan Repayment. College graduates, even if they are not local alumni, can receive up to $15,000 over 5 years toward their student loan debt if they live in Republic County during that time. The program is funded half by ROZ Counties with KDOC matching those funds. Republic County joined the program in 2012. Republic County businesses can now sponsor an employee directly; Republic County Hospital is sponsoring two this year. Business owners can also sponsor themselves in the program.
In 2013 RCED funded the first two of the qualified ten applicants through donations from the Duclos Foundation, local businesses, and private donors. In 2014 a third applicant was funded in the program thanks to a generous donation of $1,000 from the Belleville/Republic County HS alumni group. Most of our donors renew their pledge each year. Our applicants are alumni of Belleville, Republic County, Hillcrest, Pike Valley, and a few from out of state who married and returned with a local graduate.
Eligible applicants must be new residents, have earned a post-secondary degree, and must live outside their parents’ home (domicile). The program is meant to counter population decline in rural areas and assist rural businesses in the recruitment of educated workers. In a report from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity it shows nationally tuition increased a staggering 757% from 1980-2009. In 2012 the average student loan debt for graduates from a Kansas four year college is $23,677, and this figure is continuing to rise.
ROZ applicants have reported since joining the ROZ program, the income they would have spent on student loan payments, is spent instead towards a home payment or locally on goods or services. This provides an opportunity for recent graduates to develop roots in our community quickly with housing and supports local business. We consider the Grain for Graduates Program a “reverse-scholarship” that supports young educated residents and is a catalyst for our local economy and communities. The return on this investment comes back in sales tax, property tax, children in our schools, stronger college educated workforce, new ideas, and new leaders to Republic County.
Grain donations of any amount can be accepted at any AgMark location (Farmway, Cloud County Coop & Randall Farmers Coop Union) and will go to the Republic County ROZ Fund. Individuals should consult with their tax professional to determine tax benefits of donation. Donations go to the general fund and are on a first-come first-serve basis. There are currently seven applicants on the waiting list. No tax dollars are used in the program right now. Please make check donations to: Republic County memo – Republic County ROZ Fund
Republic County Economic Development
PO Box 178
Belleville, KS 66935