When David DeJong, vice chancellor for human resources, introduced his office’s Shaping the Workplace initiative, he mentioned taking a strong look at ways University benefits might help employees with student loan debt.
That was in early December—now, through a partnership with TIAA, University employees have gained access to Savi, an organization that helps borrowers navigate complex federal student loan forgiveness programs.
“Helping with student debt is a huge priority,” said DeJong. “It maps to our broader University priority of access and affordability, and it fits very naturally under this broader umbrella of Shaping the Workplace.”
Building a foundation
DeJong said that the 360-view that the Shaping the Workplace initiative aims to provide gives a global perspective about how particular initiatives fit into the bigger picture of the comprehensive benefits package. “We want to provide the rich contextual foundation needed to offer policy recommendations with confidence,” he said.
Three main questions are driving the conversation to build that context: What does the University offer right now? How can we benchmark those offerings against relevant peers? And what is the University’s disposition for change?
“That’s what the listening sessions are for. We’re doing benchmarking behind the scenes, and we need that full context to be done with step one,” said DeJong.
The partnership with Savi seemed well aligned with University priorities so DeJong said it made sense to launch it now. “The impetus is that while employees who work at Pitt qualify for federal student loan relief, that program is difficult to navigate.”
Savi’s services help borrowers identify whether they are eligible for federal income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs. Using better and more personalized data about how to manage and repay debt, Savi helps people navigate options and make informed decisions.
Savi offers two tiers of service. One, the Student Loan Checkup digital tool, helps users assess repayment options and potential savings through a forgiveness program. This option is free to use.
The Savi Essential Service can help users apply for income-driven repayment plans and track payments toward forgiveness. Additionally, Savi reminds users of payment due dates, provides access to e-file forms and even acts as an advocate for users who may need help along the way.
The Savi Essential Service offers this additional support through a fee-based service, but as a limited-time offer, the University will cover the fees for employees’ first year using the service—a $60 value.
Keep an eye out for further communications from the Office of Human Resources about how to sign up for and access Savi in the coming weeks.
DeJong indicated that conversations are taking place regarding another student debt program that would enable employees to divert retirement contributions to loan repayment. DeJong promised updates as progress is made with regard to engaging partners and setting up the technological infrastructure.
He anticipates there may be other initiatives introduced while the Shaping the Workplace initiative progresses, particularly ones so well aligned with both feedback from employees and University priorities. Among topics he has heard employees express interest in were flexible work arrangements and telecommuting.
DeJong is sensitive to the conversations, trainings and potential culture shifts that might need to occur before broader changes can take place. However, he hoped that the context provided by the Shaping the Workplace initiative will help inform those conversations.
“I want that broad perspective that will really make us feel confident that all our initiatives aren’t just one-off, but build together to help establish the University of Pittsburgh as an employer of distinction.”
For more information about Savi and to follow updates about workshop sessions and how to sign up, visit the HR website.