Selective Insurance adds student loan repayment benefit

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New graduates walk with the processional into the chapel before their commencement at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., U.S., on Sunday, June 2, 2013. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Another employer is jumping on the student loan repayment benefit bandwagon.

Selective Insurance Co., the lead insurance business of Selective Insurance Group, is offering a new student loan repayment benefit to its more than 2,400 employees. Eligible employees who have completed an undergraduate degree in the last five years will receive $100 monthly and up to $6,000 in total paid toward their student loans.

“Our goal here is to help our employees so they don’t feel overburdened,” says Cyndi Bennett, vice president of compensation and benefits at Selective Insurance. “How do we help them in all aspects of their life?”

See also: The student loan repayment benefits market is ‘blowing up’

Selective Insurance is far from the only employer that’s hoping to help workers pay off their loans. Student loan debt has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion, and as a result a small but growing number of companies are investing in the benefit. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management finds that 8% of companies offer student loan repayment programs this year, up from 4% in 2018.

Employers such as marketing agency Fingerpaint, The Hartford and Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall hospital have all recently beefed up their student loan repayment benefits.

Selective Insurance is offering its benefit through Gradifi, a student loan repayment provider, which works with employers including Wayfair, New Balance and PwC. The company is also providing student loan refinancing services through Gradifi, which is open to all employees regardless of when they completed their degree. Bennett says the company sees this as a starting point for employees, with the potential to update the benefit moving forward.

“We do keep our eye on the competitors to see what other people are doing,” Bennett says. “We thought this was a good place to start, knowing this might evolve to something different,” including offering the student loan benefit with more incentives and to more employees.

See also: CSAA Insurance adds student loan, 401(k) matching benefit

Kinsey Knakkergaard, an agency development analyst at Selective, says it is difficult to balance paying down student loans while simultaneously working to save for retirement. She says the decision to offer student loan repayment “speaks volumes about the integrity of the company.”

“I’m proud to be employed by an organization that recognizes the value of my education, helps alleviate the burden of repaying my loans, and demonstrates that employment is a mutual investment for both parties,” Knakkergaard says.

Bennett says it’s important to offer financial wellness benefits to employees to help them at different stages in their lives. The insurer also offers a retirement savings plan and an employee stock purchase program. All employers should be thinking more deeply about ways they can help their workforce financially plan for the future, she adds.

“Everybody should be thinking about how to help employees manage their entire financial situation,” she says. “Things that affect their everyday life, big issues in their life. Employers need to be thinking about that in terms of attracting and retaining talent.”

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