- While healthcare insurance giant Aetna suffered a timing setback in its battle to get mega-merger plans with Humana past federal regulators, it had good news yesterday for its current workforce. The large insurer announced that it will help up to an estimated 4,000 employees improve their financial security by addressing the cost of repaying student loans.
- Starting in 2017, the health care giant’s 50,000 full-time employees will qualify for matching loan payments of up to $2,000 per year and a total of $10,000 per person.
- The student loan benefit comes a year after Aetna raised its minimum base hourly wage for U.S. employees to $16 an hour, affecting about 5,700 employees. For tuition benefits, part-time workers also will benefit, with a cap at $5,000. To qualify, employees need to have earned undergrad or graduate degrees from accredited institutions within the last three years.
Aetna is the latest name brand employer to join the 3% to 4% of all U.S. companies that contribute to employees’ student debt payments, according to SHRM. For example, in September of 2015, PwC launched a tuition repayment benefit, and many others have followed suit.
Apart from the altruistic motivation of student debt repayment benefits, there also is bottom line motivation as well. For one, there is growing evidence that helping workers pay off student loans can drive employee engagement and be a serious talent attraction benefit.
That's a good thing for competitive industries such as such as finance, technology and retail, as 71% of college graduates this year carry student loans and the country has amassed $1.3 trillion of student debt, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said in a recent report.