New student loan reimbursement program seeks businesses to take part

As part of its efforts to retain more of New Hampshire’s young workers, the organization Stay Work Play is looking for employers in the state to participate in its new student loan reimbursement program.The Stay Work Play Challenge Grant incentive program is open to any New Hampshire employer willing to contribute $8,000 over four years to help newly hired graduates pay down their college loans.For businesses, the key benefit to the program is helping them to remain competitive by recruiting young, educated workers, the nonprofit said in a release.”Typically New Hampshire businesses are put at a disadvantage because of the generally lower wages as opposed to metropolitan areas and the large amount of debt New Hampshire students tend to come out of school with,” said Gray Chynoweth, chief operating officer at Dyn Inc. in Manchester and chairman of the Stay Work Play board. “This program helps New Hampshire businesses compete for talent.”Then there is the obvious benefit for students in the state, who graduate with the highest average debt burden of any state in the country.On average, New Hampshire students carry just over $31,000 in student debt — 23 percent higher than the national average, according to a 2010 report by the nonprofit Project on Student Debt.The incentive program is open to any company that employs individuals working in New Hampshire in an entry-level position, which is defined as any position for which students who have graduated from a two-year or four-year college or university in New Hampshire within the last 36 months could fill.To be eligible, a student must be a graduate of a New Hampshire college or university within the past 18 months.Incentive awards, totaling $8,000, are phased incrementally over four years. After completion of the first year, the employer would be expected to contribute $1,200; after two years, $1,800; after three years, $2,200; and after completion of the fourth year, the remaining $2,800 would be awarded. Payments would be made directly to the college loan provider for federal student loans.While those are the minimum guidelines, participating organizations are welcome and encouraged to provide benefits of a similar value to employees who have no debt or graduated from an out-of-state college, and to exceed the criteria.However, additional efforts are not required to be part of the incentive program.For additional information on how to participate in the program, visit — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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