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 postsecondary 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?
Yes. 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 $3,000 repayment toward your student loan.
Because 2016 is already underway, special arrangements will be made for those who apply and are accepted in 2016 and wish to move to Decatur before the end of this year.
When should I expect to receive repayment on my student loan?
Repayment will be made in February and March following the prior year in which you resided in Decatur, Alabama. For example, if you reside in Decatur, Alabama for each day of 2017, you will receive a check to be applied toward your student loan in February or March of 2018.
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 here.
If I have additional questions, whom 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 postsecondary 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 term of residence?
No. Applicants can leave whenever they want. Remember that you must reside in Decatur for a full year (January 1 through December 31) in order to receive your student loan repayment check for that year.
If I apply, will I 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 postsecondary 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 have signed for the loan to qualify for the program.