Local governments and schools in Clinton County are offering assistance in paying back student loans as a way to lure new residents to the county. They’re offering $30 a month to new residents — or in some cases current employees in Clinton County — who have student loan debt.

Andy Sokolovich of the Clinton Regional Development Corporation says attraction and retention of workers is a common issue among local businesses.

“Rather than sitting back and complaining about it, we took progressive action and a step towards developing a program that’s going to hopefully solve that problem,” he says.

Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lanker, who has also helped developed the program, says it will hopefully change where people working in the area choose to live.

“They look at Eldridge and Le Claire when they should be looking DeWitt and Camanche and Clinton as well,” Van Lanker says, “and now this is just one added incentive for them to say: ‘Nope, Clinton County’s got it going on. We’re going to move there.'”

Iowa Department Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham was in Clinton to celebrate the program’s launch this week. She says surveys show one-third of recent college graduates say student loan assistance would motivate them to consider moving.

“That is why your new student loan assistance program…is so smart from an economic growth perspective,” Durham said. “…In Clinton County, you’re making sure those interested in Iowa make their home right here.”

The program is being operated under a business called “Peanut Butter.” David Aronson says he named the business that because peanut butter is what financially-strapped students and young adults can afford. Aronson says student loan debt is a serious issue.

“Effectively it is delaying the American Dream,” Aronson said, “and while it it a challenge for so many, it is an opportunity for businesses, for the school districts and your community here in Clinton because when you help, people are going to be more likely to come to the community and more likely to stay in the community.”

Clinton County, the cities of Clinton, Camanche and DeWitt and the school districts in those cities are all co-sponsoring the program.

(By Dave Vickers, KROS, Clinton)