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3 Examples of Smaller Cities Staying ‘Recruiting Relevant’

Ryan Gardner | April 16, 2019 Employer Insights

3 Examples of Smaller Cities Staying ‘Recruiting Relevant’ By Offering Student Loan Assistance

One of the biggest underlying trends in America today is the urban/rural divide. A lack of opportunities in smaller cities, towns and rural areas – coupled with a skyrocketing amount of student debt – drives new graduates and young professionals into big cities, with the lure of more jobs and higher incomes. That then leaves those smaller cities stuck in a ‘brain drain’ loop, of losing workers, which makes the areas look less attractive for job prospects, which prompts even more people to leave.

But those big cities have their challenges, too. Places like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C., regularly rank among the most expensive metro areas in the country, where the costs of housing and living have become prohibitively expensive for those same grads and young professionals struggling to make ends meet – including paying off their loans. The median home value across the country is $225,300; in Miami it’s $304,300. Cities on that level regularly come with significantly higher price tags than the national average.

And therein lies the opportunity for employers in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis or Indianapolis. Would-be employees being priced out of the biggest cities need student loan relief. Employers in comparatively smaller cities, ones with historically stagnant rates of population and job growth, can now lean on a benefit like student loan assistance to bring droves of debt-saddled workers back into town – and into their workforce.

Here are three places where we’re seeing this play out across the country right now.

St. Clair County, Michigan

The Come Home Award is a scholarship program aimed at former St. Clair County residents who have graduated with science, tech, engineering, art or math degrees but no longer reside in this Michigan area. As the name suggests, the scholarship fund offers up to $15,000 in student loan assistance for former residents as an incentive for them to come back home, and live and work in St. Clair County.

Hamilton, Ohio

Forty minutes outside of Cincinnati, the city of Hamilton, Ohio provides a Talent Attraction Program scholarship for graduates with student debt to live and work either in town or the surrounding county. The city offers up to $5,000 over a 25-month period to be put toward student loans, and costs of living that are considerably lower than the national average (Ohio’s median home value is $130,900, nearly a full $100,000 cheaper than it is nationally; the average two-bedroom apartment in the Buckeye State costs $300 below the national average). Hamilton is banking on a combination of student loan assistance and generally cheaper living to lure job applicants and new employees into town.

77 counties across Kansas

Dozens of counties – and private employers in those counties – across Kansas offer student loan repayment benefits for workers. To qualify, applicants need to be sponsored by either their employer or the county itself; that sponsor will fund half of their repayment, while the state picks up the other half. As of 2018, there were 58 employers across the state sponsoring their workers for student loan assistance, and in 2017 the state paid out over $2 million to fund residents’ student debt repayments. Over 2,000 Kansas-born residents have since returned to their home state because of this benefit, many of them working in education and healthcare. And of the 3,400 applications submitted for the program, over one-third were from people moving into Kansas from out of state, proving that the promise of student debt assistance can be a powerful recruiting tool for employers outside of the biggest metro areas.

Student loan repayment benefits don’t just provide debt relief for struggling graduates and young professionals; they’re also powerful recruiting tools in the hands of employers looking for a new competitive edge. If you’re an employer in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Detroit, contact Vault today to learn more about how our student loan assistance platform can add a new level to your HR strategies.