Insurer adds student loan benefit to improve financial wellness

Add another employer to the growing list of companies helping employees pay off student loan debt.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said Thursday it’s adding a student loan repayment perk for its employees through administrator Bright Horizons. The employer will contribute $75 per month toward employee student loans, as well as provide workers one-on-one financial coaching and guidance on repayment strategies.

The company said it anticipates the benefit will be a “gamechanger” for employees grappling with educational debt, and a way to prioritize the financial wellbeing of its workers.

Related: Employers are doubling down on financial wellness. Is it helping?

The program is available to Blue Cross employees who are regularly scheduled to work 30 or more hours per week and have completed three months of service. Loans must be in active repayment or good standing, and the Blue Cross contribution can only be applied to one active student loan at a time, the employer says.

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“We are always soliciting opinions from employees about the issues that matter to them, so we know student loan debt is a serious burden,” says Sue Sgroi, Blue Cross’ chief human resources officer. “In addition to easing the burden of debt on our current employees, we believe our commitment to unlocking financial freedom will help us attract and retain top talent.”

Overall, 8% of employers now offer a student debt benefit, up from 4% last year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Companies including the Hartford and Sotheby’s added the benefit this year, offering contributions to workers’ principal debt amounts. Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, a not-for-profit community hospital with campuses in Newburgh and Cornwall, N.Y., recently announced its own unique student loan benefit, with provider, that allows employees to transfer their unused paid time off to the repayment of their student debt.

Related: Kathryn Mayer: Top 5 benefit trends of 2019

Other companies have set their sights on expanding their offerings to more aggressively help employees. For instance, senior care provider Trilogy Health Services earlier this year partnered with to expand its student loan benefits and other educational and financial perks. Previously, the employer paid $250 per quarter to employees toward the principal on their loans, but now contributes $100 a month toward employees’ student loan debt.

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“That debt is scary–it delays home-buying, it delays getting assets–it slows people’s ability to feel like they’re making a way for themselves,” Todd Schmiedeler, senior vice president of foundation and workforce development at Trilogy Health Services, told HRE recently. “If we want our employees to be great and to take care of our residents … they have to feel cared about, too.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.