Nonprofit launches student debt benefits program for employees

With the cost of college increasing, employers are trying to help employees tackle their student debt. According to the Federal Reserve, student debt has increased to more than $1.6 trillion. Read this blog to learn about how Northern Rivers Family of Services, a New York-based nonprofit, is paying their employee's student debt.

Northern Rivers Family of Services, an Albany, New York-based nonprofit social services organization, has partnered with IonTuition to bring a student loan repayment benefit to the employer’s 1,400 employees.

Northern Rivers decided to take on the student loan problem by offering employees the valuable wellness benefit, which is also a powerful recruitment and retention tool, company representatives said. Indeed, student loan debt has soared to more than $1.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve, yet only 8% of employers offer their workers a student loan benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Student loans are a growing concern for today’s workforce,” says Linda Daley, chief human resource officer with Northern Rivers. “Sixty-five percent of our staff holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, and they’re saddled with the burden of student loan debt.”

Some employers that offer student loan repayment programs include Trilogy Health Services, Selective Insurance, Travelers Insurance, Wayfair and New Balance.

Employees with Northern Rivers will have access to a complete suite of student loan repayment tools plus a monthly contribution program, including concierge student loan advising, free accounts for family members, unbiased refinancing, default and delinquency recovery services, and college research tools.

“The repayment program is available for all benefit-eligible employees at Northern Rivers, which is approximately 1,060 of our employees,” Daley says. “With the IonTuition platform, the program was easy to roll out and our employees were immediately equipped with all the tools they need to reach financial wellness.”

Employees must have a minimum of six months with Northern Rivers to sign up for the contribution plan in which the organization will pay $35 a month toward employees’ student loans.

“Attracting and retaining quality talent in the nonprofit space is challenging,” Daley says. “This benefit gives our employees the security that their student loan payments are more manageable. ”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (16 December 2019) "Nonprofit launches student debt benefits program for employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from

Study Shows Value of Benefits Begins to Erode for Employees

Originally posted February 27, 2014 on

While benefits remain a critical part of the overall employee experience, the perceived value of workplace benefits among employees who participate in both health and retirement plans is starting to erode, according to a new report by global insurance consultancy Mercer.

The trend was revealed in the latest edition of the Mercer Workplace Survey, a broadly cited study that measures attitudes and perceptions of benefit plan participants nationwide.

Mercer reports that despite the concern, the firm has identified ways to enhance both benefit delivery and choice, thereby improving employee perception of benefits.

With benefit coverage cost, reach and adequacy seeming to dominate U.S. news headlines, this drop in perceived value should be of major concern to employers, legislators, regulators and other concerned parties, Mercer suggests. The firm reports that a closer examination of the findings shows that the decreased value perception is being driven by concerns about rising out-of-pocket health costs. And, perhaps of most concern, workers under 50 years of age who say their benefits are “definitely worth it” in terms of what they pay out of pocket has dropped precipitously in just two years from 45% to 30%.

Even with these concerns, participants overall see benefits as critically important. In fact, 93% agree with the statement “my health benefits are as important as my salary,” while 86% disagree with the statement “my benefits don’t matter much to me.”

“Year after year, we find our survey respondents ranking benefits as one of the most important components of their employment value proposition,” said Kerry Donoghue, partner, health and benefits business leader for Mercer’s benefits administration business. “We feel strongly, however, that there are some areas of concern that plan sponsors must take into account as they evaluate and design their benefit plans, particularly as it relates to discontent about rising out-of-pocket expenses and an overall level of relative dissatisfaction among younger employees.”

“Out-of-pocket expenses for employees are likely to continue to rise,” said Beth Umland, director of research for Mercer’s Health and Benefits business. “We’re seeing more cost-shifting and rapid growth in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans as employers are asked to cover more employees under health reform. So it’s critical for sponsors to explicitly communicate the value of the overall benefits program they provide and consider offering educational resources and tools to help participants better manage their health care spending. Giving employees more choice can also help build perceived value.”

Mercer encourages plan sponsors to address the erosion in perceived benefits by designing and implementing benefit plans that are more relevant and customizable to the individual participant. A full array of plan options, such as consumer-directed health plans and private exchanges, can give plan sponsors and their participants potential savings and greater flexibility that more closely aligns with their personal situation and lifestyles.



Offering Benefits Still Gives Employers a Competitive Advantage

Originally posted November 14, 2013 on

Employee Benefit Research Institute issued the following news release:

The vast majority of workers say that the benefits package an employer offers x{2015} especially health insurance x{2015} is important to their decision to accept or reject a job, but a quarter are not satisfied with them, according to a new survey.

More than three-quarters of employees state that the benefits package an employer offers prospective employees is extremely (33 percent) or very (45 percent) important in their decision to accept or reject a job, according to the 2013 Health and Voluntary WorkplaceBenefits Survey (WBS), by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald and Associates.

Nevertheless, 31 percent are only somewhat satisfied with the benefits offered by their current employer, and 26 percent are not satisfied.

Workers identify lower cost (compared with purchasing benefits on their own) and choice as strong advantages of voluntarybenefits. However, they are split with respect to their comfort in having their employer choose their benefits provider, and think the possibility that they may have to pay the full cost of any voluntary benefits is a disadvantage.

Workers continue to rank health insurance as the first or second most important benefit provided by employers: 88 percent of employees report that employer-provided health insurance is extremely or very important, far more than for any other workplacebenefit, the WBS found.

"Employee benefits continue to be important to workers," said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI's Health Research and Education Program and co-author of the report. "Employers that offer a strong employee benefits package should find themselves with a competitive advantage over other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining desirable employees."

As the EBRI report notes, benefits coverage in the workplace, including health insurance, is far from universal. Three-quarters ofemployees (7 6 percent) report their employer offers them health insurance. Two-thirds each indicate they are offered dentalinsurance (67 percent) or a retirement savings plan (66 percent), and more than half say they are offered vision insurance 60 percent), life insurance (58 per cent), and short-term disability insurance (5 5 percent) by their employer. About half are offered long-term disability insurance (49 percent) and accidental death and dismemberment insurance (48 percent).

However, just 38 percent report being offered a traditional pension or defined benefit plan, and only one-quarter (25 percent) are offered long-term care insurance. Fewer report being offered retiree health insurance (22 percent) or other non-core ancillary benefits.

The full report, "Views on the Value of Voluntary Workplace Benefits: Findings from the 2013 Health and Voluntary WorkplaceBenefits Survey," is published in the November EBRI Notes, online at


Social Network to Monitor Staff Benefits Mood

By Julia Rampen

Source: Workplace Savings and Benefits

Yammer is launching a tool to analyze employees’ reactions to company initiatives such as benefits.

The Microsoft-owned social network for businesses has introduced technology which tracks the emotions expressed in employees' comments, allowing employers to monitor the mood of staff in different departments and locations from a central dashboard.

The tool would analyze all employees' responses in order to gauge the overall reaction - allowing HR managers to quickly view the staff response to actions such as changing health benefits.

Underpinning the tool, created by digital technology company Kanjoya, is "emotion-aware sentiment analysis" which retrieves data from Yammer groups and can distinguish between 80 different emotions.

Users can then compare the level of different emotions expressed by employees and visualize them via a word cloud.

Its influencer analysis tool may also allow companies to pinpoint the most praised and well-liked individuals.

Yammer chief product officer Jim Patterson said: "By enabling this integration, Yammer customers will be able to recognize when something has affected employees either positively or negatively - and take action."

The tool is now available for all Yammer Enterprise users.


Employers still not successfully communicating pensions auto-enrollment

By David Woods

Most employers (70%) are aware of pension reform changes but 68% of employees have little or no knowledge of automatic enrolment yet, according to a report from Aviva.

The survey found 43% of employees without a pension said they would remain in a scheme once they were automatically enrolled - but opt outs could be significant.

The challenge of getting Britain's workers saving for their retirement is highlighted in Aviva's first Working Lives Report, which reveals the daily struggle faced by employers and employees as they seek to balance business priorities against personal financial needs.

Surveying UK private sector employees and employers about their attitudes to saving in the workplace, the Working Lives research shows businesses, Government and the pensions industry across Britain have significant work to do in encouraging employees to start putting some of their hard-earned cash aside for their retirement.

Opt out rates from automatic enrolment are also potentially significant, with employers thinking that the typical percentage of employees opting out will be 33%, and a similar number (37%) of employees saying they may choose to leave. But 43% of employees currently without a pension said they would remain within the scheme once enrolled, and of those 8% said they would contribute more. Those that were undecided amounted to 21%.

Employees are most concerned (53%) about how their pay compares to the cost of living, while employers worry most about keeping up with the competition (58%). More than half (56%) of employees agree pensions are the best way to save for retirement but 55% of employees without one say they simply don't have the cash.

UK private sector employers (96%) surveyed said their employees were absolutely critical to the success of the business. And overall, UK employees seemed to be generally happy in their work - with 27% saying they really enjoy their work and 45% saying they quite enjoy their work.

But for both employers and employees - the issue of money is absolutely central to their workplace relationship. Over a third (39%) of employers said they were looking for ways to motivate their workers without 'unduly increasing remuneration' and 46% said they designed their pay and benefits packages carefully to control costs.

While employers recognized the contribution made by employees, their most immediate business concern was a commercial one - how to keep ahead of the competition (58%). However, the highest percentage of employees (53%) said that ensuring their pay kept up with the cost of living was their key workplace concern.

While pensions top the list (56%) as the best way people like to save for retirement, those actually saving into a workplace pension in the private sector right now remains relatively low at 35%. At the same time, the number of employees who say their employer offers a workplace pension (54%) is on the brink of radical change with the start of automatic enrolment.

Of those employees who are offered a workplace pension but neither they nor their employer contribute 55% say they don't have the spare cash to contribute to a pension, 28% say they need to repay debts and 20% say they need to pay for immediate family costs.

Broader workplace benefits are increasingly coming to the fore as employees seek help in bridging the cost of living gap. The top five benefits valued by employees (and which they are offered) are: annual bonus (36%), pension (16%), health insurance (15%), life insurance (14%), and non-financial benefits (14%), such as discounts on products, subsidized gym membership and crèche facilities.

Aviva's managing director of corporate benefits Graham Boffey said: "Aviva is a long-standing advocate of automatic enrolment, but we recognize that Britain's employers are facing the significant challenge of transforming the way they provide pensions and workplace benefits at a time of continuing economic uncertainty.

"When the first companies start to automatically enroll their employees in October this year, we can't expect an immediate step-change in how people save for their retirement - employers and the industry will need to make a long-term commitment to ensuring it's a success.

"Companies are increasingly going to need to find relevant and compelling ways to talk to their employees about their savings and benefits options. And as more people start to use the workplace for managing their money, practical planning tools and clear guidance will be essential.

"While the time, resources and commitment being called for from employers over the next few years should not be under-estimated, there are clear benefits for those who really understand what savings and benefits their employees value, and importantly, how best to discuss them in the workplace.

"Employers willing to put in the time and effort will find themselves in a win-win situation. Broader workplace savings and benefits are a cost-effective way of boosting employees' total packages beyond basic pay, and we know employees want additional and more relevant benefits that help them make the most of their money.

"While Working Lives shows some areas for concern, there are equally positive signs that employers and employees are willing to embrace this period of workplace change and in doing so they will help to re-invigorate Britain's savings culture."