City of Memphis to begin paying employees' student loan debt

June 9, 2017

The city of Memphis is the first municipality in the U.S. to contract with Santa Monica-based Tuition.io, a student loan management company.

Under the program, the city will directly contribute $50 a month to participants’ student loan principal payments. City employees will provide their student loan information, and Tuition.io will act as a conduit, directly funneling the money from the city to student loan companies.

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Channin Jackson started working for the City of Memphis as an intern in 2006 and has been a permanent, full-time employee for the past nine years, most recently serving as a budget and contract coordinator in the Human Resources Division.

In 2014, while still employed with the city, she went back to school and graduated with an MBA from Christian Brothers University. Though she took advantage of the city's tuition reimbursement program to help pay for her education, she still incurred additional student loan debt.

But, now, the city is planning to help Jackson with her student loans, too.

In an effort to compete with private companies for younger talent, the City of Memphis is setting aside funds to help pay its employees' student loan debt.

“As we look to hire more police, firefighters and paramedics, that’s typically a younger workforce. We know student loan debt is a major concern for them, so we see this as being an attractive and competitive benefit for that audience,” said Alex Smith, City of Memphis chief human resources officer (CHRO).

As of Tuesday, June 6, with the passing of the FY2018 budget, the city set aside $400,000 to help pay off its employees' student loan debt.

“This is all about us competing for talent,” Smith said. “We know younger workers want to work for the public sector for three main reasons: No. 1 is job security, two is professional development, and No. 3 is work/life balance."

As city employees pursue degrees — especially advanced degrees — the student loan debt contribution benefit could encourage and support professional development while retaining talent.

“Now that I do have some student loan debt, this is great that I’m able to use the city’s money as well to pay that debt down,” Jackson said.

Read the full article on Memphis Business Journal here.