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Debt Relief for New Grads

Struggling locales offer debt relief.

By the time Patrick and Amber Patterson graduated from Fort Hays State University, in Hays, Kan., last year, they’d racked up $42,000 in student loans. The couple wanted to move back to their hometown of Phillipsburg, Kan. (population 2,520), but didn’t know if it made economic sense.

Then a friend told them about the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) program. In exchange for moving to one of 54 rural counties in Kansas, including Phillips County, recent college grads receive up to $3,000 per year (for a maximum of five years) to help pay back loans. The program will shave five years off the Pattersons’ loans.

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Other struggling regions are following suit. Niagara Falls, N.Y., gives nearly $7,000 over two years to a limited number of grads who live there; New Jersey lawmakers are mulling a similar bill for Trenton, Camden and Jersey City.

Not ready to pack your bags? Try a credit or debit card that converts rewards into loan payments. Redeem points from eight different Citi cards at 1 cent per point to pay student loans. The SmarterBank Visa debit card gives you up to 1% back on any non-PIN purchases over $100 and makes payments automatically if you’ve earned $15 in rewards. Shop online with the Upromise World MasterCard and earn up to 5% back. Then use the Upromise Loan Link to make payments on eligible Sallie Mae loans using your rewards.

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