- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has paid $25 million toward eliminating its employees' student loan debts through the pay-down program it created in 2016, the auditing company told HR Dive in a press email. According to Inside Higher Ed, PwC offers associates and senior associates $1,200 a year for up to six years to pay down their student loan.
- PwC said its employees of color sign on to the pay-down program at higher rates than their white counterparts, though Asian employees are the exception. Of the eligible participants, 62% of black employees participate, 52% of Hispanic employees participate, 47% of white employees participate and 22% of Asian employees participate, PwC said.
- PwC cited a 2017 study from the Center for American Progress that showed nearly half of all African American students defaulted on their loans. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, an estimated 86.8% of black students borrow federal student loans for a four-year public college education, compared to 59.9% of white students, PwC noted.
Debt.org reports that U.S. student debt totals near $1.4 trillion and accrues at a rate of $2,858 a second. The cost of higher education is among the fastest-growing expenses in the U.S., with tuition at public universities rising from $2,119 to $9,410 since 1980 and tuition at private colleges up from $9,500 the same year to $32,410 in 2017. With this in mind, PwC's repayment of $7,200 total over the six years could be a drop in the bucket for in-debt workers — especially for those with advanced degrees.
Still, student debt pay-down benefits are catching on. According to a 2018 Clutch survey, about one-third of candidates have encountered employers offering student debt repayment benefits. The tremendous rise in the cost of higher education has not been lost on employers, who realize the impact financial stress of any kind can have on the health and productivity of the workforce. Workers have also shown a desire for the benefit, with nearly 80% in a 2018 CommonBond survey looking to employers to provide repayment benefits.
Large, high-profile companies like PwC and Sotheby's have rolled out repayment programs, but offering these benefits could be difficult for small businesses trying to compete for talent. Smaller employers might need to offer other means of helping workers cope with student loan debt, such as referrals to financial well-being experts, behavioral health providers and employee assistance programs to cope with the stress and anxiety these debts can trigger.
Correction: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the demographic breakdown of employees that use PwC's pay-down program. The story has been updated to clarify use rates.