Top 7 Cities That Will Pay You to Live There

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The average college graduate leaves school with $39,400 in student loans. When you’re struggling with such a high balance, the idea of becoming debt-free or saving for a down payment on a home can seem impossible.

But where you reside plays a huge role in your cost of living and what you can afford. In fact, several cities in the U.S. will even pay you to relocate, helping you improve your finances.

In our latest study, we put together a list of the top seven city incentive programs. Find out if moving to one of these regions makes sense for you.

Finding the best moving incentives in the country


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing is the highest annual expenditure for most Americans each year.

Because housing is such a major expense, we highlighted the top areas by calculating the cost-of-living ratio. To do so, we compared the median household income to the median home value.

Using this information, we ranked the top seven of the 14 cities and counties that offer relocation incentives based on their cost-of-living ratios, as well as the total value of the incentive programs.

We also identified the unemployment rate and state and local tax rate for each city and county. Although this information didn’t affect the rankings, we included them for illustrative purposes.

7 cities and counties that offer the best incentives


Moving to a city or county that offers incentives to live there is one way to pay down your debt more quickly or to make homeownership more affordable.

All seven of the top cities that offer incentive programs are in the Midwest, where farming and agriculture are still primary economic drivers.

Most of the cities or counties are small or have declining populations, so they offer these programs to entice new residents. Depending on the area, you could receive thousands of dollars as an incentive to relocate.

Here are the seven cities and counties that offer the best incentives to new residents.

7. St. Clair County, Michigan

  • Incentive: Up to $15,000 in student loan repayment assistance

  • Median household income: $50,930

  • Median home value: $126,900

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 40.1%

  • State and local tax rate: 6%

  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

If you graduated with a degree in science, technology, engineering, arts, or math, you could receive up to $15,000 in student loan repayment assistance by moving to St. Clair County.

To qualify, you must not already live in the area and must have graduated within the past 10 years and still have student loan debt. If you win the award, you are expected to live and work in the area. You are given 120 days to get a job or create a business.

For more information or to apply, visit the Community Foundation of St. Clair County website.

6. Marquette, Kansas

  • Incentive: Free land lot to build a home

  • Median household income: $56,783

  • Median home value: $138,800

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 40.9%

  • State and local tax rate: 9%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.5%

If you dream of wide-open spaces, Marquette’s free lot program can help you build the perfect home. Through this program, new residents can get a free land lot to build a home on or to use as a base for a manufactured home.

The value of the program is dependent on the lot size you choose. After the city approves your application, construction on your new home must start within 180 days. Once your house is completed, you must live there for at least 12 months.

For more information or to apply for a land lot online, visit the city’s website.

5. Marne, Iowa

  • Incentive: Free land lot to build a home

  • Median household income: $45,469

  • Median home value: $91,600

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 49.6%

  • State and local tax rate: 7%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.3%

A tiny city with a population of just 120 people, Marne is offering new residents free land lots. On average, the lots are 9,600 square feet. Similarly sized lots within hours of Marne can cost you thousands of dollars.

For more information and to apply, visit the city’s website.

4. Tribune, Kansas

  • Incentive: Up to $15,000 in student loan repayment assistance and exemption from Kansas state income taxes for up to five years

  • Median household income: $47,000

  • Median home value: $89,100

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 52.7%

  • State and local tax rate: 7.5%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.2%

As a new (or returning) resident of Tribune, you can qualify for a five-year exemption from Kansas income taxes. This temporary exemption can help you take home more of your paycheck each month. If you have student loans, you could qualify for up to $15,000 in debt repayment assistance.

Plus, Greeley County — in which Tribune is the county seat — has a lower-than-average unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national rate is 3.8%, but Greeley County boasts a 2.2% rate.

For more information, visit Greeley County’s website.

3. Curtis, Nebraska

  • Incentive: Free land lot to build a home

  • Median household income: $51,192

  • Median home value: $95,000

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 53.9%

  • State and local tax rate: 6.5%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.4%

Through Curtis’ free land lot program, you can get a free plot to build a single-family home.

Although many free land lot programs require you to pay for the installation of sewer and utility lines, the Curtis program at Roll’n Hills doesn’t. All lots are on paved streets and are already set up with utilities. You’ll save more money than if you had to handle the installation yourself.

Also, Curtis has a lower-than-average unemployment rate at 2.4%, making it more likely you’ll be able to find work.

For more information, email Consolidated Telephone Co.

2. Loup City, Nebraska

  • Incentive: Up to $20,000 in down payment assistance and a free land lot to build a home

  • Median household income: $46,299

  • Median home value: $84,900

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 54.5%

  • State and local tax rate: 7%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.3%

If you want to become a homeowner but are having trouble saving the necessary down payment, Loup City might be for you. The city offers two programs:

  • Workforce Homes: Those who meet income guidelines can qualify for up to $20,000 in down payment assistance to build a home on a free land lot. For a family of three, your income must be $61,560 or less.

  • Market Rate Homes: If your income exceeds the guidelines established for the Workforce Homes program, you can still qualify for incentives through the Market Rates Homes program. With just a $1,000 deposit, you can claim a free land lot. Once your home is completed, the city will refund your deposit.

For more information and to apply, visit the city’s website.

1. Lincoln, Kansas

  • Incentive: Free land lot to build a home

  • Median household income: $49,583

  • Median home value: $69,300

  • Cost-of-living ratio: 71.5%

  • State and local tax rate: 8.5%

  • Unemployment rate: 2.2%

If you’ve always wanted to see the buffalo roam, moving to Lincoln might be a dream come true. Through the Free Home Site program, you can get a free land lot to build your perfect home with views of buffalo herds, farm animals, and other wildlife.

With lots as large as 36,000 square feet, the value of the free land varies. Depending on the size you choose, the value could be worth tens of thousands of dollars, based on the price of lots in nearby areas.

As an added perk, the lot location is near a baseball field, city park, high school and athletic facilities, and a golf course.

For more information, visit the Free Home Site program webpage.

3 factors to consider before moving


Although these incentive programs might sound tempting, it’s important to do your homework before you start packing your bags. Make sure you consider these three factors.

1. Building costs

Getting a free land lot to build a home can help you save a substantial amount of money. But find out what costs you’ll have to cover.

In some cases, the free land only includes the lot itself. You might be responsible for hooking up basic utilities or even paving the road, which can easily cost thousands.

The cost of building a home can be expensive. Worse, you’ll have to find another living arrangement while your home is being built, such as renting an apartment. You could end up spending far more than you expected when you applied for a free lot.

2. Employment opportunities

All the top cities were in the Midwest. Most were small towns and very rural areas, where finding employment opportunities might be difficult if you don’t have experience in agriculture or farming. It’s a good idea to research job listings and secure a position before planning your move.

3. Earning potential

Although these seven cities and counties offer some valuable incentives, consider how moving will affect your earning potential. Six of the seven top areas had a median household income lower than the national average of $55,322.

The lower cost of living in these areas might offset a smaller salary, but it’s important to calculate how much you need to earn to pay your bills and keep up with your debt.

Moving to a new city


Here are the other cities and counties that offer incentive programs for new residents:

  • New Richland, Minnesota
  • Harmony, Minnesota
  • Grant County, Indiana
  • North Platte, Nebraska
  • Baltimore
  • New Haven, Connecticut

Moving to take advantage of incentive programs is not for everyone. But if you’re a freelancer, retired, or if you work remotely, moving to one of these cities or counties can be a great way to save money, pay off your student loans, or buy a home.

If you take advantage of one of these programs and want to accelerate your loan repayment even faster, consider refinancing your student loans to save money.

If you work in media, sign up for news updates to get access to our latest surveys and studies.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.