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Counties join effort to help revitalize rural Kansas

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Updated: 7/07/2011 12:48 pm

TOPEKA, Kansas -- Ten new counties have joined the effort to help revitalize rural Kansas through the Rural Opportunity Zones student loan forgiveness program.

Barber, Graham, Hamilton, Kearny, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Stanton, Trego and Wichita became the latest counties in the past several days to partner with the state in the program, which was proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback and passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

Greeley, Hodgeman, Kingman, Lane, Pratt, Rooks, Russell, Scott, Wallace and Woodson counties have already opted in to the program.

The Rural Opportunity Zone program is a centerpiece of Brownback's efforts to provide incentives to move people into rural areas of the state that have seen significant population declines.

Individuals who move to one of these counties after July 1, when the law creating the zones took effect, can qualify to have 20 percent of their student loans repaid or up to $3,000 per year for up to five years by the county and state, if the individuals graduated from an accredited post-secondary institution.

The ROZs program also provides a state income tax exemption for up to five years to individuals who relocate to a ROZs county from out of state. Since the tax exemption is entirely state financed, counties do not need to formally agree to join the program for individuals to participate.

The program designates 50 counties as ROZs counties. They are Barber, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Cloud, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Elk, Gove, Graham, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Trego, Thomas, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.

The formal application form for the student loan repayment program is now available online on the Department's website at


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