The city council of Hamilton, Ohio has unanimously endorsed a plan that will offer a $5,000 “reverse scholarship” to assist with student loan payments for recent college or trade-school graduates willing to move there.
Funding for the “Talent Attraction Program Scholarships” will be provided by the nonprofit Hamilton Community Foundation. City administrators and community members have praised the foundation’s efforts to draw competitive and educated young people to the city’s “urban core” of neighborhoods, including Downtown-Central Business District, Riverview, German Village, Dayton Lane and Rossville.
“We hope it will attract some folks into our community who maybe wouldn’t have come without such a program,” foundation president and CEO John Guidugli said in an announcement this week. “Our hope is to make it more of a vibrant community with folks who are interested in being here and contribute back into the community, as well.”
Hamilton’s financial offering is targeted to individuals who have graduated in the last seven years and who hold degrees in science, technology, engineering, math or the arts. Applicants must have at least $5,000 in student loan debt.
The financial offering from the foundation is the latest incentive-based effort implemented by an increasing number of cities and other localities where leaders hope to revitalize and grow urban centers by attracting young workers. Initiatives such as Hamilton’s have gained popularity in some counties in Kansas, Michigan and New York, for example.
However, some in the education community are hesitant about such financial offers.
“I think such programs can be appealing when the amount is larger,” said Dr. Donna Y. Ford, professor of education and human development at Vanderbilt University. “I don’t think [$5,000] is sufficiently compelling unless the individual was already planning to return, lives close to the city and or is unemployed.”
Dr. James Moore III, the EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at The Ohio State University, said the program should be replicated in other areas needing college-educated professionals, but only after further evaluation of it to understand the implications and if recipients remain in the community after funding ends.
This is because the city “still could suffer from the very thing” the program was created to address, he said.
“In certain communities around the country, a lot of the talent leaves and never comes back,” Moore said. “So I think it could be an economic game-changer for communities like Hamilton. But will it render the outcomes that are intended?”
Foundation members hope the scholarship will help increase entrepreneurship and fill community jobs with skilled and educated workers, as only 15 percent of Hamilton’s current residents have a college education, said Robert “Bob” Long, a Hamilton Community Foundation donor and board of trustee member.
“It’s a very good time to be here,” he said. “You do see, especially in the downtown [area], that things are changing. A lot of empty buildings now have new shops.”
Individuals can apply for the program beginning March 5, but they cannot live in the Hamilton area during the application process. Selected recipients must demonstrate employment in the greater Hamilton area in Butler County and will receive their scholarship in 25 monthly payments of $200. A recipient who moves out of the city before receiving the total amount forfeits future payments.
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.