BUSINESS COMMUNITY, INNOVATIVE PRACTICE HONOR
USLI’s College Help (College Help) program started over 15 years ago and has grown significantly since that time. College Help employs approximately 130 undergraduate students year-round who are currently enrolled in degree programs at two-year and four-year colleges and universities.
The goal of the program is twofold:
- to provide meaningful, professional work experiences for undergraduate students, and
- to reduce their student loans through an established Qualified Educational Assistance program.
“We don’t see our students as interns, but instead as significant contributors to our everyday business operations.”
USLI challenges students and raise expectations by increasing their capacity to do more. College Help participants become a part of USLI’s company DNA. In addition to their work responsibilities, USLI provides professional development classes ranging from presentation skills to financial literacy. For many of the students, this work experience serves as a practical application of and bridge to their academic curriculum.
Qualified Educational Assistance Plan
Leveraging the IRS Code 127, USLI created an Educational Assistance plan for all of their students with deferred student loan debt. Each semester a student accrues tax-free dollars in the form of an educational grant, which is directed tax free to their financial aid offices to prepay their student loans. This plan is mandatory for all students with deferred debt. Over four years, a student could earn up to $21,000 tax-free to repay student loans.
USLI has made a commitment to hire youth and believes it is part of their “secret sauce.” Moreover, they believe that they need to create pathways for recent college graduates to develop into insurance professionals. The Qualified Educational Assistance plan began in July 2013 to combat, albeit on a small scale, the indebtedness of recent college graduates. Through conversations with new hires, it was clear that student debt was becoming a greater inhibitor to financial independence. We felt that we could now make a difference with our part-time college students.
Jeff , Former College Help Program Participant, now full-time USLI employee
“Working as College Help provided me with great real-world experience throughout college. I was always involved in projects that helped my team and never felt that I was looked at as a college student. Working at USLI has really helped me understand how you should carry yourself in a professional environment. Another great benefit offered at USLI is the Education Assistance Program. While in school, I was not sure of the impact this program would have on me. After seeing its results, I was surprised because the program allowed me to completely pay off a semester’s loan. It was a huge help because I was able to save money without having to physically set it aside. Working as College Help helped me prepare for working full-time in many ways. It made my transition much easier to handle because I understood the community and culture, understood what was expected to succeed as a full-time community member and I was able to start my full-time job before graduating.”
ABOUT THE REGIONAL CHALLENGE
The Regional Challenge, now in its second year, was created by Talent Greater Philly to showcase the local businesses and higher education institutions dedicated to the educational advancement of Greater Philadelphia’s residents.
GREATER PHILADELPHIA is a region known for its work ethic and steadfast commitment to advancing itself both economically and socially. From attracting businesses to ensuring the future of our schools, cultural organizations and civic enterprises, higher education degree attainment creates opportunities for success and growth in our region. As such, Greater Philadelphia’s future hinges on, more than anything else, the education of its residents.0