Elaine Florentino, 23, graduated from Bentley University in 2014 with a degree in accounting and again in 2015 with a masters in taxation.
Along with her two degrees, she took home about $57,000 in student loan debt.
Florentino, who lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her 5-year-old son Elijah, is in a unique position when it comes to paying that debt back, however.
As an associate for big four consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, she’s taken full advantage of a new, unique company benefit currently only available at the Boston office: monthly payments toward her outstanding student loans.
“When you graduate and you’re straight out of college, you’re kind of the only one carrying that burden,” Florentino told Business Insider. “When someone helps you, it makes you feel appreciated.”
When it launches to the larger company on July 1, the program will contribute $100 a month to employees who have student loan debt. Employees will receive up to $1,200 annually for up to six years, or until the employee is promoted to a manager role — whichever comes first.
The total amount could be worth about $10,000, thanks to the effect of extra payments on the loan interest, and might help shave off 2-3 years of debt, according to Michael Fenlon, global talent leader at PwC.
PwC is one of the few private US companies offering this employee benefit as part of an initiative to help alleviate student loan debt, which is currently at a national high of $1.3 trillion and affects over 40 million people in the US. “The impact here is not just for individuals, but for a crisis in the US,” Fenlon said.
Other major employers who currently offer variations of this benefit include Fidelity Investments and Natixis Global Asset Management.
Employers who help employees pay off loans are rare. This may be in part because, unlike 401(k) contributions and tuition reimbursement, student loan debt assistance is not tax-deductible. In fact, the amount gets taxed as income for the employee.
With the “Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act,” however, things might change. This bill was proposed by Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-Fl), to make repayment assistance tax-free just like tuition reimbursement is.
Florentino, who devoted $451 every month to her loans after paying expenses for herself and her son, initially expected her payments would take 10 years and that with interest, she would ultimately pay a total of about $80,000 to her lender. With the SLP benefit, she expects to finish paying her loans a year early, and for at least $8,000 less.
Signing up for the program was easy, Florentino says. As one of 76 employees in the SLP pilot program, she had to register her private and federal loans, a total of $57,000, with the company’s database so they could verify the loans and ensure they are, in fact, student loans (rather than personal loans). After that, the process “became seamless,” and she started seeing the payment go straight to her student loan account every month. Though the pilot program just started this past January, Florentino is excited for the results it can bring.
“I feel much better about my student debt,” Florentino said. “It’s kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel. It will get paid.”
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