3 Kansas counties join rural tuition program

? Three more Kansas counties have enrolled to participate in a new program that aims to attract new residents to rural areas by offering to repay college tuition debts.

The Kansas Department of Commerce said that Chautauqua, Gove and Pawnee counties had joined the state’s rural opportunity zone program aimed at slowing or reversing the rate of population decline in the counties. To date, 43 of 50 eligible counties are participating.

Counties participating in the program agree to partner with the state to offer student loan reimbursements of up to $3,000 a year for five years to new college graduates. The department said there were 158 applications from across the country for the program.

The rural program also includes a five-year income tax abatement for qualified new residents.