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Workers whose employers offer to help them pay down their student loan debt get even more out of this increasingly popular job perk if they also refinance their loans at lower interest rates, according to a new study by NerdWallet.

NerdWallet found that’s especially true of advanced degree holders with higher debt. An MBA holder with $52,805 in student loan debt could expect to save $5,039 in interest payments by enrolling in an employer contribution program that pays down $167 in student loan debt per month over a five-year period, with a $10,000 cap. If that same borrower were able to refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates, the study estimated they’d save a total of $7,181 in interest payments.

Savings by degree

Degree Average debt Interest saved employer paydown Interest saved refinancing* Savings through refinancing plus employer paydown
Bachelor’s $29,400  $4,121  $931  $4,264
 MBA  $52,805  $5,039  $3,754  $7,181
 LLB, J.D.  $147,535  $5,329  $9,525  $13,017

Source: NerdWallet. *NerdWallet’s interest rate assumptions for borrowers’ current loans is for 2012 graduates. Interest saved by refinancing will typically be higher for borrowers with older loans carrying higher interest rates. 

For a law school graduate with $147,535 in student loan debt, the tandem benefit of an employer contribution and refinancing are even more dramatic. While enrolling in the employer contribution program would save a young lawyer $5,329 in interest payments, also refinancing their loans raises the total savings on interest payments to $13,017, NerdWallet found.

Companies offering student loan debt repayment benefits include PricewaterhouseCoopers ($1,200 a year with $10,000 cap), Natixis Global Asset Management ($5,000 on five-year anniversary, $1,000 a year thereafter with $10,000 cap) and Fidelity Investments (up to $10,000).

The number of companies offering the perk is expected to grow, NerdWallet noted, with career networking website Beyond reporting that 89 percent of job seekers think employers should offer it.

Credible has partnered with Peanut Butter to empower companies to not only offer repayment assistance, but provide a platform for employees to get personalized rates on refinancing loans from multiple, vetted lenders serving a broad range of borrowers.

Employer paydowns of student debt would be an even more valuable perk to employees if the payments weren’t considered income. There’s a bill in play now — the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act — that would allow employers to provide a tax-exempt student loan repayment benefit of up to $5,250 a year.

NerdWallet, which based its assumptions on interest rates on refinanced student loan debt on statistics provided by Credible, noted that refinancing isn’t the best option for everyone.

“Choosing to refinance is beneficial only if you have a good credit score, steady income and job security; you’ve made steady payments on your loans; most of your loans are private; and you have fairly high debt — lenders often have minimum loan balance requirements to qualify for refinancing, such as $7,500 in total outstanding loans,” said study authors Victoria Simons and Anna Helhoski.

Credible’s prequalification tool lets borrowers compare offers from multiple, vetted lenders to see how much they might save by refinancing. Requesting prequalified offers takes about two minutes and does not affect your credit score.

About the author
Matt Carter
Matt Carter

Matt Carter is a Credible expert on student loans. Analysis pieces he’s contributed to have been featured by CNBC, CNN Money, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

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