Jan 25, 2023

Barton County opts into student loan repayment program

Posted Jan 25, 2023 3:42 PM

Great Bend Post

College is not getting any cheaper. In an effort to help college graduates who choose to return home and serve Kansas communities, the Kansas Department of Commerce created the Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones Student Loan Repayment Program to assist with outstanding loans. Wednesday morning, the Barton County Commission opted into the program. County Director of Operations Matt Patzner explained the program to the commissioners.

"The Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) Student Loan Repayment Program provides up to $15,000 in benefits as a workplace recruitment tool for eligible persons establishing domicile in Barton County," he said. "The Kansas Department of Commerce requires counties to pass a resolution obligating them to participate in this ROZ program for at least five years."

Ninety-five of the 105 counties in Kansas have been designated as Rural Opportunity Zones eligible for the benefit. Thirty-four of those counties are already involved in the program. Commission Chair Shawn Hutchinson learned that two years ago at a Kansas Association of Counties meeting.

"When I went to KAC, not this year but the year before, I think this is one of those where they put the map of Kansas up," he said. "It was like almost all the counties were participating. Barton was the glaring white spot in the middle of the map. I just couldn't figure out why we weren't doing it, especially when there's no financial commitment on our part just to opt-in, basically. I'm all in favor of opting in."

The program provides up to $15,000 in assistance over five years with the Department of Commerce matching benefits up to 50 percent. Eligible candidates must have a newly established address in a participating county after the county began participating in the program. They also need to have an active student-loan balance in their name, and must have a degree. Only those who attended college in another county are eligible at this time, though that requirement is currently under review.

CLICK HERE to apply for more information on, or to apply for the benefit.