Crushed By Student Loans? Move To Niagara Falls

Want to chip away at those student loans? It could be as easy as a ZIP Code change.

The city of Niagara Falls, N.Y., right outside Buffalo, plans to join several other communities jockeying for young college graduates, who bring with them with economic possibilities – and college debt.

"People know Niagara Falls is famous for tourism," said the city's mayor, Paul Dyster. "They don't know it's an industrial city that's lost half of its population over the last 40 years, including many college graduates."

In an interview with CNBC's "Street Signs," Dyster discussed the proposed program, which still awaits approval and would be funded by the city's Urban Renewal Agency. He added that the idea has attracted a "huge" number of inquiries so far.

"We think that we can afford to do 20 people in the pilot program the first year," he said. "That requires an investment of about $200,000."

As part of the plan, chosen recipients would be reimbursed for up to $291 in monthly student loan payments. They would have to commit to live for two years in a designated neighborhood that Dyster said would be at a "tipping point."

The program comes amid rising levels of student loan debt in the U.S. According to a recently released study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average outstanding student loan balance per borrower has edged above $23,000.

But students who are burdened by debt and unwilling to brave New York's plunging winter temperatures need not worry. Kansas is in the midst of a similar undertaking.

Fifty rural counties in the state have become Rural Opportunity Zones, which are authorized to offer qualifying residents either a state income tax waiver for up to five years, a student loan repayment of up to $15,000 or both.

To be eligible, residents must hold either an associate's, bachelor's or post-graduate degree, have an outstanding student loan balance and establish residency in a participating county.

The Kansas program's manager, Chris Harris, told ABC News that the program has already received more than 330 applications and drawn young professionals, such as veterinarians, accountants and lawyers to the state.


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