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The student loan repayment world has gotten pretty creative in the last few years. There are startups trying to offer better refinancing options to qualified borrowers, schools promising to pay the debt of graduates with low salaries, and then there are the loan repayment and forgiveness programs offered through the government.

Now there’s a city trying to leverage the prevalence of education debt to its advantage: Niagara Falls. The New York side, not Canada.

That’s a pretty important distinction. New York’s Niagara Falls had 50,103 residents as of the 2010 U.S. census, down from 55,593 in 2000. Ontario’s Niagara Falls had 82,997 as of the 2011 Canadian census, up from 78,815 in 2001. There seems to be a bit more going on in the Canadian city, but in New York, there’s a plan to revitalize the community. One aspect of that is to attract young people to the city, by offering to pay $7,000 of their student loans if they live in a certain area of town for two years, one that’s reportedly run-down.

According to a report from Fusion that profiles some of these new Niagara Falls residents, there are five participants in the program. They’ve seized the opportunity to make a dent in their debt — which any student loan borrower knows takes a huge bite out of your income for many years, sometimes decades — but whether or not they’ll stay in the city after the program is uncertain. Of course, the city officials would like them to stay. That’s the point of luring them to Niagara Falls in the first place. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of job opportunities there. The participants interviewed in the Fusion piece expressed such frustration.

That reflects one of the many obstacles student loan borrowers face across the nation: Finding adequate employment in places they can afford to live. Repaying student loans is crucial (it’s almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy), but not everyone has the means to afford payments when it’s time to give the money back.

Borrowers concerned about making student loan payments should research their options as soon as they think they may fall behind, because missed payments will seriously damage your credit score, and things will only get worse if you continue along that route. Hey, maybe you can move to Niagara Falls, or one of the 77 counties in Kansas that has a similar program. There are also income-based repayment programs, consolidation and even refinancing, depending on your credit standing. You might have to take a leaf out of Niagara Falls’ book and get creative — whatever’s necessary to stay on top of your debt. You can get a free credit report summary, updated monthly, on Credit.com to see how your student loans are affecting your credit.

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Image: Sahmeditor, via Wikimedia Commons

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