10:34am

Thu June 28, 2012
Regional Coverage

Niagara Falls offers to pay student debt in exchange for living downtown

Niagara Falls is testing a novel approach to attracting new residents. The city is offering to pay a portion of recent college graduates' student debt in exchange for living downtown for two years.

According to a recent New York Times study, 94 percent of recent college graduates have student debt. That debt adds up to more than a trillion dollars nationwide.

Niagara Falls will pay up to $7,000 toward the debt of 20 new residents who rent or buy in a concentrated downtown area.

Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo says this group will help the city's struggling economy.

"That's 20 more dinners, 20 more cups of coffee, 20 more trips to the dry cleaners. Are we doing anything else to bring 20 people in? No," Piccirillo said.

Niagara Falls has lost half of its population since the 1950s. But city Councilman Glen Choolokian voted against the student debt plan.

He says the city needs to spend its limited funds on existing residents and businesses and he's concerned that nothing binds these 20 new residents to the city long-term.

"You know, once these students come here, get the two years in, then they're going to move some place else," Choolokian said.

Niagara Falls will begin accepting applications for the 20 spots sometime this fall.

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