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2019 August 4 - 10:41 am

Utah Launches Debt Forgiveness Program

Tech Grads Targeted as Key to Economic Future

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is rolling out a program to forgive college debt for tech workers who stay and work in the state.

Lawmakers created the Talent Development Incentive Loan Program $2.5 million program last year to retain graduates and keep Utah’s tech sector growing, the Deseret News reported.

It requires students to have completed one year on approved academic track for a bachelor’s degree in order to apply, but after that accepted students could have their last three years paid for if they agree to work in state for three years after graduation. Associate degree students have to be enrolled for a semester before applying.

For a University of Utah student, that could mean up to $30,000 in debt relief. School officials there are expecting to be ready for applications in the coming weeks.

Qualifying jobs include applications software developers, management analysts, computer systems analysts, computer and information system managers and network and computer systems administrators.

Those interested should contact their college’s financial aid office.

Abby Osborne, vice president for government relations for the Salt Lake Chamber, told lawmakers last year that the state exports far more jobs that it imports. Students who attend publicly funded universities are often lured out of the state for jobs elsewhere, she said.

“Workforce is really the key issue in Utah in these targeted tech areas,” said Senate Assistant Majority Whip Ann Millner, a Republican who proposed creating the program. “It’s really important for us to find ways to keep our grads in the state as they begin their careers.”

Utah now has nearly 1,500 unfilled positions for software application developers and more than 750 open jobs for network and computer systems administrators.

The total number of tech jobs sitting empty numbers about 5,800, a nearly 20 percent increase over a year ago.

The money is doled out to Utah post-secondary schools based on a formula assessing the average number of graduates in qualifying degree programs, said Spencer Jenkins, the Utah System of Higher Education’s associate commissioner for public affairs.

The University of Utah, for example, will get just over $770,000 for the upcoming school year. Brenda Burke, the school’s executive director for Scholarship and Financial Aid, said her office has identified about 1,000 students who would qualify, though their allotment would fund about 90 students this year.

Accepted students will have to sign a promissory note that puts them on the hook for loan repayment if they move early.

“Our tech industry is growing faster than any other state in the nation,” Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance CEO Derek Miller said. “That’s the good news. But if we want to continue to have a sustainable knowledge-based, innovation economy we’re going to need to continue to focus on workforce development.”

Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

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