Ten new counties have joined the effort to help revitalize rural Kansas through the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs) student loan forgiveness program. Barber, Graham, Hamilton, Kearny, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Stanton, Trego and Wichita became the latest counties in the past several days to partner with the state in the ROZs program, which was proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback and passed by the Legislature earlier this year. The ROZs program is a centerpiece of Brownback’s efforts to provide incentives to move people into rural areas of the state that have seen significant population declines.
These counties join Greeley, Hodgeman, Kingman, Lane, Pratt, Rooks, Russell, Scott, Wallace and Woodson counties that have already opted in to the program.
“The chance to bring back our college-trained children, to help our communities grow and prosper, is one that we all should embrace,” said Dale Staab, Ness County Economic Development Manager. “I am glad that the county commissioners are forward thinking and progressive, and took advantage of this program.”
Individuals who move to one of these counties after July 1, when the law creating ROZs took effect, can qualify to have 20 percent of their student loans repaid (up to $3,000 per year for up to five years) by the county and state, if the individuals graduated from an accredited post-secondary institution.
“The Rural Opportunity Zones student loan repayment program is receiving tremendous interest from Kansans, especially young Kansans,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “I’m excited that a significant number of counties have agreed to partner with the state in this effort. If we can encourage young people to move to these counties and establish careers and families there, we will succeed in strengthening the rural fabric of Kansas.”
Application Form Now Available
The formal application form for the student loan repayment program is now available online on the Department’s website at KansasCommerce.com/RuralOpportunityZones. A printed version of the form can be requested by contacting Dan Lara, public information officer for the Department, at (785) 296-3760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ROZs program also provides a state income tax exemption for up to five years to individuals who relocate to a ROZs county from out of state. Since the tax exemption is entirely state financed, counties do not need to formally agree to join the program for individuals to participate. There is not a formal application procedure for this program.
The program designates 50 counties as ROZs counties. They are Barber, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Cloud, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Elk, Gove, Graham, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Trego, Thomas, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.