Clothing retailer Carhartt adds student loan perk to benefits package

Add yet another company to the growing roster of firms helping employees pay back their student loans.

Clothing retailer Carhartt recently started offering eligible employees a $50 monthly contribution toward their student debt up to a lifetime maximum of $10,000. The monthly payments go directly to the employees’ student loan service providers and are applied to principal on their loans.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company, which employs 4,700 worldwide, initiated the student loan repayment assistance program to help employees further their education, according to Jennifer Piscopink, Carhatt’s senior vice president of human resources.

“For those associates who are thinking about going back to school, and for those who have already completed their college education, it’s important for us to provide payment assistance on their student loans,” she says.

Since the benefit was introduced in May, 181 employees have enrolled in the student loan plan. The company has budgeted for 448 employees to sign up for the benefit this year, according to Jodi Ruffini, Carhartt’s director of benefits.

“Collectively we reduced 68 years of payments for our associates,” says Ruffini of the employees who have tapped the benefit so far.

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Graduates during the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs commencement at Riverside Church in New York, U.S. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The plan is open to all full- and part-time employees, both union and nonunion. Nonunion employees are eligible after 30 days with the company, while union employees are eligible after 90 days.

“We care about our associates and their families,” Ruffini says. “We want them to be able to bring their best to work each day.”

Carhartt selected Tuition.io as its technology platform, citing Tuition.io’s online tools, high level of customization and flexibility as key factors in its decision.

“They have a nice hand-holding approach,” Ruffini says.

Carhartt joins several other companies that have recently rolled out student loan repayment benefits. Estee Lauder, for example, announced earlier this year that it now makes a $100 monthly contribution to employees’ student loans, up to a total of $10,000. PURE Insurance, a property insurance business with 600 employees, and Crystal & Company, a national insurance brokerage firm with 450 employees, also announced similar plans.

Student loan repayment benefits are gaining traction among employers eager to retain and attract employees, with 4% of employers offering them, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.

While the number of employers providing the popular new benefit is modest, many industry insiders expect the number to grow significantly in coming years.

Ruffini reflects the new thinking. “We’re focused on bringing a competitive benefit package that includes unique benefits,” she says.

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