The New Way Employees Are Paying Off Their Student Debt
Just this morning, as I dragged my notoriously-exhausted college student ass around the kitchen getting ready to go to my summer class, my mother (bless her little soul) asked me my least favorite question to be asked at 8 a.m.: “Mary, have you started paying back your private loan yet?”
I nearly choked on my smoothie. (And not because I put frozen kale in it, although that was objectively the second-worst decision I’ve made in my young life, right behind taking out a private student loan.)
Although I’m a year away from graduation (God willing), the two semesters I took off earlier in my college career had forced me to get a taste of what it was like to begin paying back a few of my student loans — and it was bitter. However, the monthly payment was small, considering the fact that it didn’t even include the money I had borrowed privately, which is something I’ve done a truly impeccable job at ignoring. In fact, my whole loan situation in general is one I love to willfully ignore and pretend isn’t happening, although I am secretly hyper-aware of the sad reality that this time next year, like many of my peers, I will come face-to-face with all of my loans — and for the first time, I’ll have no help in making or delaying the payments.
Or will I?
Recently, I was sent an article from Fortune written by Donna Fuscaldo, highlighting Millennial Hero™ Brendon McQueen’s revolutionary startup called Tuition.IO: a service that originally aimed to help students manage and pay back loan debt, which went on to eventually help students manage over $2 billion in student loans. However, in 2015, the company shifted to cater to a more specific need in the loan-repayment world: a platform to help employees pay off their student loan debts with the help of their employers. In this article, Fuscaldo says of McQueen’s vision:
“He guessed, correctly, that by offering to help pay off student loans, employers could recruit and retain quality hires. Today, Tuition.IO’s platform enables companies to pay a portion of their employees’ student loan debt each month as a benefit, similar to an employer sponsored 401(k) matching contribution.”
That all sounds too good to be true, right? Well, despite the very obvious appeal to students who are in debt up to their graduation caps, the program offers similarly-appealing benefits to employees, such as helping them to recruit “quality” employees for hire, and seriously reducing employee turnover by offering a benefit that is far more beneficial (har har) than most others offered to entry-level employees at competing companies.
There are, of course, other companies out there offering similar programs (as noted in the Fortune article,) but Tuition.IO boasts some fancy clientele such as Fidelity Investments, who signed on with them in March and only helps to reinforce the legitimacy and success of the company.
Although this Fortune article offers some real-live statistics of exactly how Tuition.IO has helped both employees and employers, it is hard to say if it is something that will pick up speed and begin solving the problems surrounding student loan debt on a larger scale- especially when you consider how many employees don’t take advantage of benefits they are already being offered, such as employer 401(k) matching programs.
Even so, Tuition.IO is a platform that is not only giving debt-ridden millennial talent a chance to bring to the table all of that quality, higher education goodness they’ve acquired from that expensive-as-hell college education — it’s also shedding light on this issue faced by students every day, regardless of whether or not you or I might use the program. It’s good that employers know this is a perk candidates want, and it’s nice to see the financial benefits extending past things like 401(k)s. (Some students need help with debt much more than they need to invest.)
There is no telling if Tuition.IO, and programs similar to it, are the answer to our millennial prayers, but as a young person and professional bottom-feeder rapidly approaching her own graduation, this article serves at the very least as a small beacon of hope lying within my own personal heavy pile of debt.
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