Recognizing the strain that many public sector employees are experiencing to pay off their student loan debt, MetLife’s financial wellness platform, Upwise, has partnered with Savi Technology, a social impact technology company, to help borrowers navigate their eligibility for different student loan forgiveness programs.
The collaboration, announced earlier this month, comes at a time when more than 43 million Americans have student loan debt, with the vast majority holding federal loans. According to MetLife’s 2023 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 62% of employees are looking to their employer for more help in achieving financial security through employee benefits.
Upwise, run by MetLife Services and Solutions LLC, was first launched in 2021 with the goal of helping employees build healthy financial habits. The partnership with Savi will now allow employees to take a “holistic view of their personal finances and understand how student loan debt impacts their financial health,” a press release stated.
Using a student loan calculator, the mobile app assesses an employee’s eligibility for relief by exploring various repayment and student loan forgiveness options.
Ellen Pedersen, vice president and head of product at Upwise, says plan sponsors can offer this application to participants free of charge. Because MetLife works with many employers in federal, state and local governments, as well as sectors of health care, education and nonprofits, Pedersen says it made sense to partner with Savi, which specifically focuses on bringing student loan forgiveness to public sector employees.
The application will be exclusively offered to employers who are MetLife clients, Pedersen explains.
When using Upwise, Pedersen says users first input a few pieces of information to assess if they are eligible for public service loan forgiveness. Upwise then analyzes the data and gives an initial prognosis, such as suggesting a user can reduce their monthly payments by $200 and could be eligible for forgiveness.
As this is an “integrated solution,” according to Pedersen, the user is then directed to Savi’s platform and asked to enter more information, such as the number of dependents they have and their income level, to receive a more specific assessment and recommendations.
While a user may be eligible for more than one student loan forgiveness program, Savi will recommend the program that will save them the most money on their monthly payments.
“To date, Savi has identified more than $1 billion in projected loan forgiveness opportunities for student loan borrowers and can reduce monthly student loan payments by $150/month,” a press release stated.
Payments on federal student loans have been on pause since the start of the pandemic in 2020 but are expected to resume some time between June and September, Pedersen says.
“This is going to be a shock, because people are already dealing with inflation, and the average student loan payment in the U.S. is $400 per month,” Pedersen says. “So it’s a good time to have a solution like this [application] out in the market.”
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives the remaining balance on a borrower’s direct loans after the borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments, can be an overwhelming logistical hurdle, according to Pedersen, and she says Upwise’s platform attempts to help people navigate that process.
As long as the borrower is working full-time for a qualified public sector employer, they receive credits toward forgiveness through the PSLF program. Pedersen says employers who offer this benefit may see boosts in their retention, because if an employee with substantial student loans is in this program, they would be less likely to switch to a private sector job.
“The fact that the employer offer can offer this does make them more attractive,” Pedersen says.