Student loan debt may be a sign of the times but it is also at an all-time high. Indeed, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the national figure for the United States now tops more than $1 trillion (meaning that the the average debt for now exceeds $20,000). In response to this an increasingly large number of students are seeking new loan forgiveness programs to help offset this burden and, at the same time, a new breed of programs is stepping in to offer relief. While traditional programs have been offering loan forgiveness to teachers at low-income schools, social workers in high need districts, and other skilled professionals working for the public interest for years, a new loan forgiveness program is working to solve another social problem: rural population decline in the US.

Indeed, as a new report out from Bloomberg indicates, an increasing number of states and municipalities are offering new loan forgiveness programs in an effort to attract new residents. One state in particular, Kansas, sees the new effort as a way to attract young professionals (and their income) back to areas that are otherwise aging at the expense of the rest of the nation. The Kansas loan forgiveness program may be of particular interest to private student loan holders in particular because, unlike many other loan forgiveness programs, it open to all borrowers without regard to the source of their loan debt.

In the words of the its own application form, candidates need only have “a current outstanding student loan balance” – it also lists no degree requirements – in order to receive up to $15,000 in student loan repayment over five years. The fact that new loan forgiveness programs like this are a win-win for both borrowers and areas with declining populations is evidenced by the success of the Kansas program: 411 people have already applied.

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