Foundation fund

St. Clair County Community Foundation Suspends Reverse Scholarship

Paying off his student loans meant Andrew Kercher could buy his dream home in his hometown of Port Huron, a historic home on Military Street. This sale came in the blink of an eye as the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic just days after the final sale.

Kercher was the 2019 recipient of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s Come Home Award, a reverse scholarship given to college graduates who agree to move to St. Clair County in exchange for receiving money to repay their loans students.

Kercher lived throughout Michigan before returning home to take up a position as community engagement manager for Port Huron Museums, a career he is passionate about and helps him feel connected to the community. Things have fallen into place for him, with his marriage, his dream job and his historic home, but it’s a feat that might not have been possible if it wasn’t for every dollar that he received from awards and other sources to repay his student loans.

“By being able to pay off the last of my student loans, with a little help from my grandparents and funds like the Come Home fund, I was able to be in the right place at the right time to buy the house I wanted. ‘ai I am now. My wife and I love it, “said Kercher. “We actually closed our house basically the week the pandemic started, so all sorts of delays, everything that had held me back for another week or two, I have no idea if I would even still live in Port Huron because so many things would have changed.”

The announcement of US President Joe Biden’s federal student loan program last week will put a temporary pause on the Come Home award, which could allow the foundation to redirect funds to other talent attraction programs, said Randy, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County. Maiers.

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County seeks to attract all young talent to St. Clair County

The award awards up to $15,000 to college graduates who agree to relocate to St. Clair County and obtain employment in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The scholarship money must be used to pay off student debt from a two- or four-year undergraduate program or a graduate program.

Since its inception in 2016, a total of $209,000 has been awarded to 21 recipients, Maiers said.

Biden’s Federal Student Debt Forgiveness Program will provide up to $10,000 in student loan relief and up to $20,000 to Pell Grant recipients, singles earning less than $125,000, or married couples whose combined income is less than $250,000.

Maiers said the federal student loan forgiveness program will put a pause on the Come Home program while applicants and recipients determine if they are eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Money that could be saved through the federal student loan forgiveness program will then be reallocated to other talent attraction programs, Maiers said. These can include programs such as the foundation’s new talent attraction fund, business programs, or grants requested by the foundation’s community partners.

However, it remains to be seen how much — or even if — the money will be reallocated as borrowers pay off the federal student loan forgiveness program in the coming months, Maiers said.

The community foundation’s talent attraction program – which began in the summer of 2021 – aims to attract a more diverse pool of young talent, whether college graduates, people in the skilled trades or professionals. entrepreneurs without a university degree.

Small businesses and nonprofits can apply to the program for up to $5,000 to allocate to new employees in the form of a signing bonus or relocation expense reimbursement. New employees cannot already live in St. Clair County.

Maiers said the community foundation did not receive any applicants when the program was introduced last summer, so the foundation has widened the pool of potential applicants from its community partners to any nonprofit or small organization. business in certain geographic areas of St. Clair County.

So far, the foundation has received one application for this summer’s application round, Maiers said. Attracting talent is a priority the foundation will continue to focus on, he said.

Young talents contribute to the economic dynamism of small towns

Maiers said community foundations want to attract young talent to their areas to support economic vibrancy. Each worker adds value to the community and economic vitality of a region by investing in businesses and civic and community organizations in the community. Families also send their children to area schools, contributing to depleted enrollment that results in lost funding.

Kim DeLand at Riverview Plaza in downtown St. Clair on Monday, August 29, 2022. DeLand is one of 21 recipients to receive the St. Clair County Community Foundation's Come Home Scholarship, which awards up to $15,000 to college graduates who agree to relocate to St. Clair County and find employment in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“We see young people leaving college with $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 in student debt and when they come back to St. Clair or Marysville or Port Huron with that kind of debt, they struggle to be able to buy a house or live downtown or start a family,” Maiers said. “We and other foundations like us are advocating for living downtown, settling down, coming back to small town America , to spend your money here. So for us, the loop is complete. If we can help them get a break on their monthly payment, they can afford to settle down. They can afford to start a family. They can afford to buy a house.

And for some recipients like Marysville resident Kim DeLand, the Come Home award also provides a way to return home where there are family, friends and other social supports.

DeLand was working for Yale Public Schools and living in Royal Oak with her partner-turned-husband when she heard about the Come Home Scholarship. The award, given to her in 2017, gave her the incentive she needed to return to her native Marysville, where her family and her husband’s family live.

“When you don’t have to make a payment of $300 a month or something, you’re obviously going to have more money to spend on other things like a mortgage,” DeLand said.

The homecoming award allowed him to enter his marriage with less debt, and now the couple own a home in Marysville with plans to stay long term.

“It’s where we come from. It’s where our families come from and it’s great to be able to work and live in the community you care about,” DeLand said.

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected] USA Today also contributed to this report.