The application period is open for anyone interested in a program that helps pay off people's student loans if they move to rural Virginia and work in hard-to-fill jobs.

The deadline to apply for the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission's student loan repayment program is Sept. 15. The commission has additional information about qualifications, along with the application, on its website.

The idea behind the program is to attract recent college graduates to one of the 40 localities in Southwest and Southside, many of which are losing population. They'll work as science or math teachers in public schools or industrial or electrical engineers, for example. Participants will also have to demonstrate they are civically engaged in some way.

The commission’s Talent Attraction Program will cut a check for $24,000 over two years to people willing to live in the tobacco region and work certain jobs. Participants can apply for an additional two years and receive another $24,000.

For the health care jobs, the commission is partnering with the Virginia Department of Health, which already runs a program awarding people up to $140,000 over four years to work in underserved areas.

This is the first round of applications for the program. It replaced the previous program in which the commission doled out $2,000 scholarships.

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