Brendon McQueen, the founder of Tuition.io, had a big problem. After graduating from Columbia University he found himself having to manage 12 different student loans amounting to $120,000.
The weight of his loan balance was only exceeded by the weight of having to manage several different repayment plans with a total monthly payment of $900.
Unable to make ends meet for his family, he was forced into forbearance, which only increased the amount he owed. It seemed as if he would never be able to solve the problem.
That became his motivation to create Tuition.io – a web-based platform to help student borrowers organize and manage their debt. Launched in 2013 out of Santa Monica, California, Tution.io has helped its users manage $2 billion in student debt and decrease their monthly payments by as much as 8%.
Today, Tuition.io is a leading provider of student loan assistance platforms for employers that want to help student loan borrowers with their debt.
What Services Does Tuition.io Offer
At the core of Tuition.io’s platform is its online loan management toolset. This feature provides users with a 360 degree view of their loan situation – current balances, payment amounts and activities, and projected payoff using a number of different payment options and amounts. It also provides guidance on which loan repayment options are most effective for your situation. You can plug those options into the tool to see how it will perform.
Tuition.io will also show the effect of student loan consolidation or refinancing on your loan repayment expectations. It can show whether your new interest rate will lower monthly payments, and it can calculate the total interest costs or savings. With this tool, qualified borrowers should be able to accurately asses whether student loan refinancing is truly worth it in the long run.
With the online loan management tool as its key feature, Tuition.io began marketing its student loan assistance platform to employers targeting millennial talent. The platform allows companies to provide student loan assistance as a benefit to employees with student loan debt. Tuition.io provides consulting services to help companies design the plan for its specific needs and then administers it. Employers can choose the level of reimbursement and eligibility requirements. Tuition.io charges a monthly service fee for the use of its platform.
Who are Tuition.io Biggest Customers?
Tuition.io launched with a bang, taking on Fidelity Investments as one of its first customers. Fidelity was an early investor in the company, getting it to beta form in 2013. Since then, more than 10% of its workforce – about 5,000 employees – has signed up for the benefit. Other major clients include Staples and Chegg.
Who are the Competitors?
Tuition.io was launched around the same time as Student Loan Genius, which has also nabbed some big clients, such as Prudential and John Hancock. Gradifi is another upstart, launched in 2016, that has managed to attract some big customers including PwC which is offering it to all 46,000 of its employees.
Where Does it Go From Here?
Only 4% of employers offer a student loan assistance benefit. As much as other employers would love to offer it, one obstacle may be the tax treatment of the benefit. Unlike tuition reimbursement benefits, which receive favorable tax treatment from the IRS, student loan assistance benefits are taxable to employees and are not tax deductible for the employer. That can get fairly expensive for employers with a young and growing workforce and employees may be better off using the money they would otherwise have to pay in additional taxes to pay down their loans.
However, a push by a growing number of employers wanting to offer the benefit, coupled with the mounting student debt problem has gotten Congress to act. In April 2017, a bipartisan bill was introduced to remove the tax hurdles. The Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act seeks to apply the same tax exclusions afforded tuition reimbursement plans to student loan assistance plans. The act would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 each year towards employees’ student loan debt. The benefit would be tax-free to employees and tax deductible to employers.
There have been several attempts at passing similar legislation in the past, but this one appears to have a bigger bipartisan push behind it. After all, what senator or congressman doesn’t have to face a growing constituency of millennial voters? If it is enacted, as expected, look for Tuition.io to continue to grow.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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