Modeled on a first-in-the-nation scholarship offered in Michigan, a new program launched in Hamilton, Ohio that tackles college student debt, workforce attraction, urban repopulation, and economic impact, all in one strategy. It’s called the Talent Attraction Program (TAP) and is a competitive scholarship program that provides back end financial support for graduates. The financial support can be leveraged by graduates to put toward outstanding student loan debt or to offset other cost-of-living expenses.
Specifically, applicants must demonstrate the following attributes:
- Graduated from a STEAM program within the last 7 years
- Are not currently residents of the Greater Hamilton region
- Have more than $5,000 in outstanding student loan debt
- Will live within Hamilton’s Urban Core
- Demonstrate employment in the greater the Hamilton area or Butler County
This program is a twist on the now popular Promise programs, an initiative to increase college attainment in a specific locale, that became well known and widely replicated after the success of the Kalamazoo Promise. While Promise programs increase the potential talent supply of college grads, attraction programs attract existing qualified professionals to meet employer demand.
As I mentioned in a Dayton Daily News, reducing the debt burden is an attractive incentive to recent grads and it will also free up recent college grads to spend more of their money in the communities where they decide to live. During these times of low employment and high workforce demand, a strategy like this one is certainly another arrow in the quiver for cities and regions. Like the Promise programs, it will be interesting to see if more and more cities copy the TAP Scholarship.
In the long run, however, TAP needs to scale up to be successful, increasing the pay out beyond $5,000 and significantly increasing the number of recipients per year. After speaking with the Hamilton Community Foundation that funds and runs the program, my impression is that launching the program is the first step. Over time, they will be in better position to measure and evaluate the program’s impact and, hopefully, the results will support a case for increased investment.
While it would make sense for private industry to come forward and invest substantially in this scholarship, this is led by a community foundation for a reason and the impact will be greater than just helping area employers. The TAP program is about populating the urban core and, as many American cities have experienced, a vibrant core affects, positively, the culture, community, economy, and quality of life of a city and its people. Let’s closely watch this scholarship program develop and, then, advocate for replication and further investment if it proves to work.
All the best to the City of Hamilton!
WiIl other Ohio cities soon follow suit?