Want to speed up your student loan repayment? Consider moving to Hamilton, Ohio, a city of around 62,000 residents that’s a 40-minute drive from Cincinnati. Hamilton offers a scholarship aimed at incentivizing recent grads to live and work in the city and Butler County.
For those who qualify, the Talent Attraction Program (TAP) Scholarship offers up to $5,000 over a 25-month period to put toward your student loans. Here’s how it works and what you should consider before moving to Hamilton.
How the TAP Scholarship works
“We’re trying to not only help students with their loans but build the urban core of young professionals,” said Katie Braswell, vice president of the Hamilton Community Foundation, the organization that administers the scholarship.
“We have been awarding scholarships on the front end to graduating high school seniors for 60 years,” she said. “Just like any other community, we’ve seen the changes happening where we give students the money to go to college but they don’t come back.”
That’s when the foundation came up with the idea of helping recent grads with their student loans.
Qualifying for the TAP Scholarship
The foundation website stipulates that it prefers applicants who have graduated from a STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics — program within the past seven years.
Further, you must have plans to move to certain areas of Hamilton. You can view a list of the qualifying areas online. You must also be employed in Hamilton or Butler County.
Braswell said successful applicants will have 90 days after being awarded the scholarship to lock down work and living arrangements.
You can find the application online. The foundation reviews applicants on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Cost of living in Ohio
Moving to Ohio for the scholarship might help you pay down your loans in a different way, by reducing your expenses. The lower cost of living in Ohio could free up room in your budget to dedicate to your student loan payments.
As of August 2018, the cost of living in Ohio is 11.6% lower than the U.S. average, according to Best Places, which rates cities nationwide.
Take housing costs as an example. The average rent for a two-bedroom in the U.S. is $1,027. In Ohio, you’ll pay $746. Meanwhile, the median home in Ohio costs $130,900, compared with the nationwide median of $216,200.
Living and working in Hamilton
If you win the TAP Scholarship, you’re going to have to move to Hamilton. If you don’t know much about it, here’s the scoop.
“The town is trying to repurpose itself,” Braswell said. The city’s website describes Hamilton as a community with “big-city amenities and small-town charm.”
“[There are] lots of art opportunities, Braswell said. “Restaurants are coming to town, lots of boutique shops, employment, health care.”
Before moving, consider employment and housing opportunities in the city. Your scholarship would be contingent on you securing the two.
Should you apply for this scholarship and move to Ohio?
Only you can decide whether it’s worth moving to Hamilton for student loan repayment help. Consider these questions as you make your choice:
How much will you make in Butler County? Double-check whether Butler County or Hamilton offer jobs in your industry. And consider the typical pay in Ohio. For example, residents earn a median $48,849 annually, according to Best Places. That’s below the national median.
How expensive will it be to move? If you’re applying from a nearby county, your moving costs could be affordable. But if you’re considering a cross-country move for this scholarship, you might incur significant moving costs.
Is the scholarship amount worth it? Do some math to figure out how this scholarship and the cost of living in Ohio could help you repay your student loans. Use our student loan prepayment calculator to help you determine what it would take to pay off your loans early.
Consider refinancing your student loans
If you’re looking to speed up repayment on your student loans or reduce your costs, you could consider refinancing.
When you refinance a student loan, you take out a new loan with a different interest rate and repayment term. A lower rate would mean you’d pay less money over time on your debt. With more money going toward your principal balance, you could pay off your student debt faster.
Private lenders offer refinancing. If you refinance a federal student loan, you’ll lose access to certain borrower protections such as income-driven repayment.
Different pathways to repayment success
Reducing your cost-of-living expenses and winning the TAP Scholarship may sound like a great idea. But you don’t have to move to make student loan repayment easier. Of course, if you’ve dreamed of moving to Ohio, the TAP Scholarship may be the nudge you need to make a change.
Weigh your options carefully. Consider your budget, your potential to earn more money where you live and elsewhere, and how you envision your future. You may not have to uproot your life to pay off your loans.
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