In a bid to attract new residents, Maine has the ultimate incentive for those drowning in student loans; move there and they'll help pay them off.
The catch? You have to make enough money to pay taxes - unless you're a STEM major!
The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit program was originally established in 2008 as a retention tool targeting young professionals living in Maine, which allowed them to use their student loan payments as tax credits.
Thanks to a labor shortage, however, the program's pitch evolved to lure qualified employees to the state.
When you move to Maine, the money you spend toward paying your student loan debt each year is subtracted from your state income taxes.
For instance, if you pay $1,800 toward your loan and owe the state $2,000 in taxes, you'll only end up paying Maine $200. -CNN
"Over time, the employer community spoke out loud and clear that even if 100% of college graduates in Maine chose to stay here and work, that still (wouldn't) fulfill our workforce need," Nate Wildes, engagement director for "Live + Work in Maine," told CNN.
"We need to import people," Wildes said. "We need to attract people from other states for our workforce"
STEM majors, meanwhile, who specialized in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, may even receive money back from Maine:
STEM majors -- who study science, technology, engineering and math -- could even get a check back from the government -- if their loan payoff amount outweighs their taxes. Non-STEM majors fall under a non-refundable tax credit program, which means they'd owe $0 in state taxes under the same scenario. -CNN
STEM major Matthew Glatz graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern Maine with $60,000 in student loan debt, according to CNN. He signed up for the tax credit program after graduation and has been able to launch his own catering and food truck company, SaltBox Cafe.
"It's fantastic," Glatz said of the program. "Maine is a great place to live and work, and any incentive you have to show people that and make them realize that is a benefit."
Maine needs to attract workers
One of the main reasons Maine needs to attract workers is due to demographics; it's the state with the oldest population in the nation with a median age of 44 - five years more than the rest of the US.
"This is a substantial financial investment by the state, many millions of dollars," Wildes said. "But we recognize that student loans are a big financial burden and emotional burden."
"The message to employees is: We appreciate all you've done to invest in yourself, we'd like to put that talent to work and award you by not only giving you a job but by alleviating your student debt."
Wildes knows because he moved to Maine partly because of the initiative.
"The tax credit program was the gravy to make that transition much easier," he said. "This speaks to financial perks but also of the culture in Maine."
It's the only statewide program of its kind, he said. Similar programs are tied to individual schools or geographical areas.
"In that perspective, Maine is light-years ahead," Wildes said. "It's by far the most general universal tax relief program in the United States." -CNN
That said, those who wish to take advantage of the program should consider doing so sooner than later - as Maine has earned a "D" financial grade from Truth In Accounting last month due in part to the state's underfunded pension and taxpayer burden.