Student loan debt got you down? Move to Niagara Falls.

Struggling cities and rural towns that have seen better days don’t spring to mind as places that recent college graduates would flock to.

Yet officials in locales like Niagara Falls and Detroit are desperate to attract young student bodies to inject vigor into their depressed neighborhoods. And people who have borrowed tens of thousands of dollars to finance their education are desperate to find ways to begin pay off their debts.

The best way to match them up? Cash money. The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how some local communities and states have instituted programs to help students pay down debt if they are willing to relocate and put down roots.

Loan forgiveness programs aren’t new. Five years ago, the federal government created a program to tackle student loan debt burdens, including forgiving loans after a decade for people working in certain public sector jobs. But pairing the needs of communities and debt-ridden college grads is a new riff on that idea, one that could prove mutually beneficial to young people and those communities willing to take a chance on these new workers.

In Niagara Falls, 20 college graduates will receive $7,000 over two years once they are accepted into a new city program. To receive the money, they must rent an apartment or buy a home in certain downtown neighborhoods. The city’s community development director has been deluged with emails and phone calls about the plan.

Certain Detroit employers, like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, provide loan forgiveness programs for new home buyers and stipends for people renting an apartment for the first time.

Depopulated rural areas also offer enticements. Some places have plenty of jobs, but few skilled people to fill them. Enter states like Kansas, which has created a program that provides limited income tax waivers and loan repayment incentives of up to $15,000 for people living in certain counties. Nebraska is considering a similar effort.

These ingenious programs, however, simply spotlight the more serious problem: Little is being done to dent the high cost of college or to resolve the controversy over federal student loan interest rates.

On the campaign trail, President Obama trumpets Congress’s capitulation to keeping Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent, but the fix is in place only for one year and only helps undergraduates. Mitt Romney proposed allowing private sector lenders to rejoin the federal student loan program, however, the move has been harshly criticized as doing little to help reduce the burden on students or taxpayers.  With no brighter ideas on the horizon that leaves local communities emerging as the next best hope for some college grads to get out of the fix that they’re in.

                                                                                                                                –GABRIELLE GURLEY


The summer issue of CommonWealth is out today, in print and online. Our features include articles on deed restrictions used by the Boston Archdiocese to enforce its religious doctrines and thwart religious and educational competitors, Steward Health Care, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the growing divide in state education funding, and the cleanup of the closed Medfield State Hospital. You’ll also find an interview with David Kennedy, the architect of Boston’s successful anti-gang strategy of the 1990s, who thinks urban gun violence can be stopped. All this and much, much more. Click here for a complete listing of the stories in the new issue.


South Coast lawmakers are confident the Legislature will override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of money to keep Taunton State Hospital open.

Rep. Carlos Henriquez is released on bail and says he will be vindicated of charges that he assaulted and kidnapped a woman he was dating, NECN reports. The Globe account is here, and the Dorchester Reporter story is here.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he will work to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto related to  EBT reform and bristles at the governor’s comments about “political grandstanding,” the Herald reports. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says Patrick’s budget moves on EBT reform are meant to play to a national audience.

Patrick’s veto of language changing the definition of a Gateway City draws fire and accusations of political gamesmanship, CommonWealth reports.

Reps. William Straus of Mattapoisett and Dan Winslow of Norfolk debate budget priorities and the need for spending cuts versus new revenues on NECN’s Broadside.

The MetroWest Daily News likes the 2013 state budget, despite the secrecy and lack of debate it took to produce it.

The Berkshire Eagle applauds state arts funding, skimpy though it is.


Boston will begin charging set fees for use of City Hall Plaza by outside groups under a proposal put forward by the Menino administration to replace the ad hoc system that has prevailed until now.


When it comes to tax cuts, Keller@Large wants to know how you define “rich.”


The American Spectator says it’s becoming increasingly apparent why conservatives continue to be short-tempered with Mitt Romney, and it’s not just the summer heat. Speaking of heat, the Obama camp is turning it up on Romney to disclose his offshore finances. Dan Payne, in his WBUR political column, dissects Romney’s finances.

President Obama had his best month of fundraising in June but it was still just two-thirds of what Romney raised for the month. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren reports a blockbuster fundraising quarter, pulling in $8.67 million. But the Springfield Republican thinks that Obama, Romney, Warren, and Scott Brown could learn a lot from a Palmer town councilor candidate who spent just $330.75 on his campaign and won.


State lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate mediation as part of the foreclosure process despite heavy lobbying against the requirement by the banking industry.

Vornado Realty Trust plans to sell the Boston Design Center as part of a $228 million four-building deal, the Boston Business Journal reports.


The Boston public schools, with a lot of outside financial help, manage to make art instruction work, Laura Perille of Edvestors writes in a CommonWealth column.

Even kids think that school is too easy, according to a Center for American Progress study.


The budget signed into law this week by Gov. Deval Patrick makes Massachusetts the last state to allow consumers to use pharmaceutical coupons for prescription drug purchases.

Study of the day from The Atlantic: People with children are 52 percent less likely to catch a cold than those without kids.


An MBTA bus collided with a truck being used in a film production in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, sending 11 people to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


Salon says a new study shows fracking — the controversial method of retrieving natural gas — can contaminate local drinking water despite the gas industry’s insistence it is safe.

With the country just emerging from a period of sweltering heat, Time asks: Do you believe in global warming now?


A multi-million dollar Boston drug operation was taken down and 14 people arrested in what prosecutors call the biggest drug investigation in the city in a decade.  

The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that lifetime parole for sex offenders who fail to register is not mandatory but rather up to the sentencing judge. CommonWealth recently delved into the issue of sex offender registration and classification.

Prosecutors call the claim by Whitey Bulger’s lawyer that the gangster had immunity from prosecution for the murders he’s charged with “frivolous and unsubstantiated.”

A Peabody 2-year-old who died outside a Saugus church on Sunday was dropped and not hit by a car, reports the Item of Lynn.

The Phoenix reports on “the sh*t Boston cops say” in the Pax Centurion, a police union newsletter.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling last month that said life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, the attorney for a 35-year-old Rochester man will seek a new sentence for his client who was 15 when he murdered his parents and sister.

On Greater Boston, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral talks about the book that inspired her to get into law enforcement and become the state’s first and only female sheriff.

A Texas judge dismisses a lawsuit brought by cyclist Lance Armstrong against the US Anti-Doping Agency, but Armstrong’s legal team plans to refile it, the Los Angeles Times reports.


As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate managing the last-place Red Sox, Bobby Valentine is taking heat from Major League Baseball with the release of a documentary he produced that exposes the seamier side of MLB recruiting in the Dominican Republic.

The Nieman Journalism Lab examines falsity and the First Amendment.