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Rural Opportunity Zones Succeed, Attract College Grads To Rural Kansas

A program to persuade college graduates to move to Kansas is succeeding.

The Rural Opportunity Zones program entices college graduates to move to Kansas counties with declining populations. The program gives these new residents income tax waivers for up to five years. It also pays of their student loan debt--up to $15,000.

Since the program started in 2011, 628 people have applied for reimbursement from the program. Of those, 322 have been approved, 151 applications are still pending. Of the group, 228 people are from out of state, with the department receiving applications from 38 states.

Gov. Sam Brownback says he's pleased the program is working as planned.

"It's going right at what we need to take place," said Brownback. "Young, talented people are moving to rural Kansas."
The program's success is also its biggest challenge. Some county officials say they can't earmark enough money for their share of the incentives. ROZ counties match half of the $3,000 in annual student loans payments for each applicant.