The Hartford to pay up to $10,000 per employee toward student loan debt

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Nearly 17,000 eligible U.S. employees at The Hartford will soon be able to pay down their student loan debt, thanks to a new benefit the company is releasing early next year.

The financial services company will pay up to a lifetime total of $10,000 toward workers student loan debt, contributing the funds directly to loan providers each month. Marty Gervasi, chief human resources officer at The Hartford says the company noticed that the cost of debt was becoming a growing concern for workers.

“It is a financial burden that can cause a great deal of stress, and we want to help employees have more financial flexibility, enabling them to focus on their life and careers,” Gervasi says.

See also: Paid leave, student loan benefits continue to trend upward

Student loan debt in the U.S. has ballooned to nearly $1.5 trillion. Although repayment benefits are still relatively uncommon, companies including New Balance, Wayfair, Travelers Insurance and marketing agency Fingerpaint all offer the benefit to workers — and the list is growing.

The number of employers offering the benefit jumped four percentage points in the last year alone to 8%, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. PwC, an early adopter of student loan benefits, has paid nearly $26 million toward worker debt since the start of its benefit in 2016.

“It’s affecting when they are starting families, buying homes and how they’re saving for retirement,” Michael Fenlon, PwC’s U.S. chief people officer says. “By providing the student loan benefit, PwC is helping staff be better prepared for their financial future.”

Employers are also looking for new ways to structure their student loan benefits. For example, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital is now allowing its 1,500 employees to convert their unused PTO into money that can be used for student loan repayment. MSLC’s benefit was developed in partnership with the provider Tuition.io.

See also: Gradifi client list hits 750 employers with addition of New Balance, Wayfair

The Hartford’s new benefit is offered through Gradifi, a student loan benefit provider that works with employers including Sotheby’s, New Balance, Wayfair, Fingerpaint, Peloton and PwC. David Chang, CEO of Gradifi, says the new benefit showcases the company’s commitment to the financial wellness of workers.

“It's a powerful offering that enables thousands of employees to reduce the burden of their student debt,” Chang says.

The Hartford says its new benefit will be apart of a broader suite of offerings to help workers tackle education debt — including student loan counseling and a refinancing benefit. The company also offers a tuition reimbursement benefit to employees pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees.

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