Fintech company adds student loan repayment benefit

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One of Nashville’s largest employers has joined the ranks of companies looking to help tackle their employees’ student debt.

Fintech company Advance Financial will now repay up to $12,000 of each employee’s debt over six years. Its program, through provider Gradifi, also includes options for employees to refinance or consolidate their student debt and receive counseling on how to eliminate the rest of their debt.

“If we can alleviate even one of the financial challenges our employees cope with, we know we’re helping that colleague lead a more comfortable life,” says Ahnaf Bashir, Advance Financial’s vice president of human resources. “[That] in turn, can translate into better performance and focus on their careers.”

Currently, 67 of Advance Financial's 1,100 employees have enrolled in the student loan benefit since it launched in January, including a lot of older employees who are still working to pay off their student debt, Bashir says. Employees have to spend a full year with the company before becoming eligible for student loan repayment.

Advance Financial's program combines several aspects of student loan benefits offered by other companies. Fiat Chrysler offers a student loan refinancing benefit though CommonBond. Other employers, including Fidelity, Penguin Random House and Nvidia, offer contributions to workers’ principal debt amounts.

See also: Employees want student loan benefits — but employers aren’t sold yet

Student loan benefits are especially attractive to indebted recent graduates, who paid an average of $393 each month on their student loans in 2016, according to The Federal Reserve. Advance Financial is betting that helping its workers reduce their student loan debt will help them focus on their careers.

The student loan repayment program adds to the company’s comprehensive benefits package, Bashir says. Employees also receive 40 hours of paid time off to volunteer, six weeks of paid parental leave, 401(k) matching, use of the on-site gym and medical care.

“The best benefits are the ones that last and the ones that are used,” Bashir says. “Things like a ping pong table in the common area are hot for a while. But when the novelty wears off, people lose interest.”

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Student loan debt Student loans Financial stress Voluntary benefits Employee engagement Employee retention