NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Accounting and consulting giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers announced it will pay up to $1,200 a year to help some employees pay down student loans, a move that could mark a new beginning in corporate perks.
PwC said the benefit, which will begin in 2016, could affect as many as 11,000 new college graduates it hires every year. The company will pay the sum for up to six years, for a total of up to $10,000. Associates and senior associates, or those who have been with the company between one and six years, are eligible as well. PwC said it is the first financial services firm to offer the perk.
Rob Gittings, the company's vice chairman, said the benefit is one way to attract the best young employees, noting the program could be especially beneficial to minorities, who often exit college more in debt than their white counterparts. Recent college grads make up about 45 percent of PwC's 46,000 employees in the United States.
"We're recruiting millennials -- we want to recruit the best -- and they're coming to us with higher debt burdens than ever before," he said. "We want to be seen as a firm that isn't afraid of taking on big issues."
About 43 million Americans owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. Of that, about $103 billion is in default. Many graduates say they can't afford the high monthly payments and others have opted not to pay as a form of protest.
In the new initiative, PwC is joining a small group of companies offering some form of student debt repayment as a perk, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. In a new report, the group said only 3 percent of companies provide student loan repayment. A larger number of companies offer tuition reimbursement.