Hospital Employees Can Use Vacation Time to Pay Down Student Debt

Megan Brooks

August 08, 2019

Montefiore St Luke's Cornwall (MSLC), a not-for-profit community hospital with campuses in Newburgh and Cornwall, New York, is helping employees pay off student loan debt with a novel new program.

As part of the Student Loan Repayment Program, MSLC employees can convert unused paid time off (PTO) into employer contributions toward paying down their student loan debt, including federal and Parent PLUS loans.

Eligible employees can convert 30 to 75 hours of unused PTO into payment against student debt that will be distributed semi-annually with a maximum of $5,000 in annual contribution. The program is available to full- and part-time employees. The student loan repayment program is being administered by Tuition.io, an employee benefit platform.

Jeni Burckart, senior director of healthcare at Tuition.io, told Medscape Medical News that MSLC is the first hospital employer partner of Tuition.io to implement this type of program. "There are other PTO conversion programs, but Montefiore St Luke's Cornwall is the first to apply that conversion directly to an employee's student loan debt," she explained.

"In healthcare it's incredibly common for frontline clinical staff to have unused PTO banks with hundreds of hours of PTO. That's because direct patient care positions are often short-staffed, leaving little opportunity for employees to take the PTO they've earned," Burckart added.

"For many employees, this option doesn't represent a decision between using the earned time off or getting the money, because today clinical staff are losing a benefit they've earned while suffering the burnout of being unable to take time off. This plan gives these employees a chance to cash out a benefit they would otherwise be losing out on and, as a result, make a meaningful payment against their student loan debt," she said.

"Financial Wellness"

National student loan debt is currently estimated at $1.5 trillion, with medical students bearing a larger-than-average financial burden after graduation. An estimated 75% of medical students leave school with education debt, holding an average balance of $196,000, according to a news release from Tuition.io.

"Medical graduates are often faced with what can seem like an insurmountable amount of debt as they transition from student to medical professional," Dan Bengyak, vice president of administrative services at MSLC, said in the release.

MSLC's repayment program is at "the forefront of employee benefits and squarely addresses the very real challenges faced by thousands of workers today. We believe financial health is a cornerstone for success and this unique debt relief program gives our employees the tools to tackle it head on," he said.

"It's estimated that American workers forfeit 212 million vacation days amounting to $62.2 billion in lost benefits in a year," Scott Thompson, CEO of Tuition.io, said in the release.

"MSLC's Student Loan Repayment Program provides a new option that addresses this problem and empowers employees with choice as they pave their way to financial wellness. Personalized benefits is where the industry is heading and this is a proactive step towards alleviating the stress of student loan debt," he said.

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