What is the Best & Brightest Initiative?
The Initiative, launched in Decatur, Alabama - a Top 10 City for Engineers - is the first in the country to offer a comprehensive incentive package recruiting STEM graduates that includes student loan repayment up to $3,000 per year for up to 5 years ($15,000 maximum), ongoing mentorship, career networking and opportunities, and the ability to influence events in our city. Eligible individuals must have graduated from an accredited post-secondary institution after January 1, 2014. Accepted applicants cannot be legal residents of the City of Decatur on the date their application is submitted. The program is open to residents of the State of Alabama and nonresidents.
Is there a penalty for leaving Decatur?
You can leave anytime, but all benefits end once you no longer reside within the city limits of Decatur, Alabama.
Do I need to live in Decatur for an entire calendar year to receive my student loan repayment for that year?
You must reside within the city limits of Decatur, Alabama from January 1st through the end of December 31st of a given year in order to receive the full $3,000 repayment toward your student loan. Otherwise, payments are prorated. For example, if you are part of the program for half of a given year, the following year you will receive $1,500.
When should I expect to receive repayment on my student loan?
Repayment will be made by July following the year in which you resided in Decatur, Alabama. For example, if you reside in Decatur, Alabama for each day of 2019, you will receive a check to be applied toward your student loan by July of 2020.
Where are repayments actually sent?
Repayments will be sent directly to you so you apply the full tuition payment to your lender.
How do I apply?
The application is intended to be relatively painless and can be accessed on this site.
If I have additional questions, who should I contact?
Please email John Joseph IV at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does my income impact my eligibility for the Initiative?
No income requirements exist.
I graduated from college before the Initiative launched. Can I still apply?
Yes, as long as you graduated from an accredited post-secondary institution after January 1, 2014, have outstanding student loans from the degree you earned, and are willing to live in Decatur, Alabama.
How much of my student loans could be paid by the Initiative?
The Initiative will pay up to $3,000 per year with a $15,000 maximum benefit over five years. If you owe less than $15,000 in student loans, we will pay up to 20% of your loan per year until the entire loan is paid. For example, if you owe a total of $10,000 in student loans, we will pay up to 20% of your loan per year, which in this case is $2,000 per year, until the entire loan is paid.
Are the payments I receive considered taxable income?
Yes, payments will be considered taxable income. More information can be found in IRS publication 970, “Tax Benefits for Education.”
Do applicants enter into a contract regarding the term of residence?
No. Applicants can leave whenever they want.
If I apply, will I automatically be accepted into the Initiative?
No. This is a competitive program. We will accept as many qualified applicants as our funding allows, but applying for the program does not guarantee you will be accepted, even if you meet all eligibility requirements.
If I live inside the Decatur city limits but open a business or work outside of Decatur, am I eligible?
Yes. Eligibility is based on where you live, not where you work or operate a business.
Must I be a graduate of a college or university in Alabama to be eligible?
No. Anyone who graduated from an accredited post-secondary education institution after January 1, 2014 and meets all other requirements is eligible to participate, no matter where that institution is located.
Can repayments be applied to student loans taken out by my parents for my education?
Parents can be co-signers on the loan, but the student must be a co-signer for the loan to qualify for the program.