ENID, Okla. (KFOR) – Two nonprofits are starting a program offering up to $10,000 per person in student loan debt relief for people who are willing to move to and work in the town of Enid. Officials with the program said it’s a talent attraction for the Northwestern Oklahoma town and businesses needing employees.
“We think this is a wonderful example of how philanthropy and economic development can work together to help build our thriving community,” said Carrie Sanders, executive director for the Cherokee Strip Community Foundation.
Thus, the push to bring prospective employees into Enid begins with the program a year in the making. The Cherokee Strip Community Foundation and Enid Regional Development Alliance are leading the charge on what is called the “Work in Enid Award.”
“The businesses in Enid are experiencing a lot of growth, and we do not have the labor force here to support those jobs that we have available,” said Lisa Powell, Executive Director for the Enid Regional Development Alliance.
Powell said the scholarship is open to anyone with student loan debt. She said the hope is to bring more employees to Enid that have been harder to find around town amid a two to three percent unemployment rate.
“The average number of 25 year olds and older with a college degree that live in Garfield County is actually lower than the state average and lower than the national average,” Sanders said.
There is also no criteria to the type of job the person gets. A job board has been created at jobs.growenid.com/jobs. The board represents over 180 employers with over 500 positions ranging from a nuclear engineer to a store clerk. However, there are some conditions. A job commitment letter from an Enid employer or a full-time remote position in a professional role is required within 120 days of being selected. The money can be received up to $10,000 at $1,000 payments quarterly for two and a half years.
“We believe that Enid has the type of quality of life that people are looking for,” Powell said.
“There’s a student loan debt crisis right now,” Sanders said. “So, this is really just a tool in their toolbox in order to help recruit these people.”
There isn’t necessarily a time limit you must stay in Enid to get the money. Since it is paid out quarterly, KFOR was told someone could move to Enid for a quarter of a year, receive the $1,000 and move away. However, at that time the payments would stop. The money cannot be received in one lump sum. The two nonprofit organizations have pledged $65,000 to establish the fund. However, they are hoping to get more donors who can add to it. They said they will continue to give out the awards if there is money in the fund to give out.
The application for the program can be found at Liveinenid.com.