Nonprofit employees face crushing student debt amid pandemic, new TIAA survey reveals

  • 80 percent that benefited from the CARES Act say they will have difficulty keeping up with their student loan payments when forbearance endsavailable
  • Temple Health adopts major student debt assistance program from TIAA and Savi to offer immediate relief and help employees qualify for debt forgiveness
    • Average projected debt forgiveness exceeds $50,000

NEW YORK, November 11, 2020 – Public service and nonprofit employees have experienced significant financial disruption during the global COVID-19 pandemic and the vast majority say they will have trouble making their student debt payments if the CARES Act expires without replacement, according to new research by TIAA.

In its 2020 Nonprofit Student Debt SurveyOpens PDF, TIAA polled nonprofit workers ages 21-64 who hold at least a Bachelor's degree, were employed as of January 1, 2020 by a nonprofit organization or a government entity, and currently have student debt.

COVID-19 exacerbates an existing problem

Nonprofit workers are saddled with overwhelming student loan debt. Among survey respondents, 58 percent reported having more than $50,000 in debt. Sixty-one percent identify it as a significant source of stress, and 75 percent associate negative feelings with their loans. Forty-one percent feel frustrated, 34 percent feel hopeless, 26 percent feel angry, and 22 percent feel ashamed.

"The nonprofit sector, which is critical to our country's well-being amid the COVID-19 crisis, is carrying an extremely heavy burden," said Doug Chittenden, Head of Client Relationships at TIAA. "They are putting their lives at risk caring for the sick or keeping schools open while dealing with great financial uncertainty. There has never been a more important time to help our nonprofit workers lower their monthly payments and move towards eliminating their debt."

Loan forgiveness is at risk

Seventy-one percent of respondents familiar with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which can grant loan forgiveness for certain borrowers who make 120 qualifying monthly payments, said they have attempted to enroll to have their student loans forgiven. However, staying compliant with the program in today's challenging economic climate may be difficult for those enrolled as they juggle competing financial priorities.

More than two-thirds of respondents with student loans have seen a reduction in their household income due to COVID-19, and nearly one in four of those had a change in their employment situation. As a result, 80 percent of nonprofit workers that benefited from the CARES Act in the U.S. say they will have difficulty keeping up with their student loan payments when the CARES Act forbearance ends on Dec. 31, resulting in potential disqualification from PSLF.

Among the survey respondents who did not attempt to enroll in PSLF this year, 43 percent reported feeling unsure if they qualified for the program, and 39 percent didn't know where to get help with enrollment. Another 16 percent found the process too complicated, and 12 percent did not have time to complete the process.

Temple Health offers employees a major solution

In response to this crisis, Temple Health has joined a number of other TIAA clients to offer their employees a significant student debt solution. This solution, from TIAA and social impact startup Savi, can help employees immediately reduce their monthly student loan payments, and help them stay compliant with PSLF to ultimately achieve forgiveness.

"Our healthcare workers are on the front lines and already under tremendous pressure to keep their patients safe and healthy," said John Lasky, Chief Human Resources Officer at Temple Health "They readily accept that role and absolutely excel at it. They shouldn't have to navigate student debt forgiveness on their own, too. We are pleased we can offer this meaningful solution to help ease one area of stress. Our employees using the solution are already saving on average $222 each month, and we project average forgiveness of over $51,000 per employee." 1

Relief will enable broader financial wellness

A majority of survey respondents reported they would use any form of debt forgiveness or loan reductions toward building up their savings or paying down other debts.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would use their savings to purchase a house, contribute to retirement, or save for a child's college education. Sixty-one percent said they would pay off other types of debt. If loan payments were reduced by $150 a month, 84 percent said they would save the money for an emergency or put it toward a house, retirement, or a child's college education.

A solution nonprofit employees are looking for

After receiving a brief description of this solution, 90 percent of survey respondents said the tool would be useful, including 46 percent who would find it very useful.

The benefit can be a major point of differentiation for employers, too. Nearly 80 percent of respondents say they would choose one employer over another because they provided access to a solution to simplify enrolling in PSLF and increase their likelihood of loan forgiveness. Respondents also noted it would improve retention, positivity and loyalty toward their current employers.

How it works

Employees at institutions offering this solution can sign up by answering a few simple questions online. From there, the Savi software determines potential immediate savings with an income-driven repayment plan and whether the person may qualify for a forgiveness program. The Savi algorithm takes into account an individual's specific circumstances, including their family and tax situation, and suggests a solution that best fits their needs. Importantly, the solution helps the individual to stay in compliance with the recurring paperwork requirements of PSLF and reduce errors.

Study Methodology

The TIAA Nonprofit Student Debt Survey presents data from an online survey of 600 adults, ages 21-64 who hold at least a Bachelor's degree, were employed as of January 1, 2020 and currently have student debt. The survey was conducted by KRC Research on behalf of TIAA. The survey was fielded from September 22 to September 30, 2020.

About TIAA

With an award-winning 2 track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA ( is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1.2 trillion in assets under management (as of 9/30/2020 3) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.

About Savi

Savi is a social impact technology startup in Washington, D.C. working to solve the student debt crisis affecting 46 million borrowers by helping them discover new repayment and loan forgiveness options. Founded by long-time student loan experts and advocates, Savi is a public benefit corporation that has identified more than $200 million in projected forgiveness for student loan borrowers. Savi works with employers, membership organizations, and financial institutions to provide our service as a unique student loan benefit.

About Temple Health

Temple Health is a major Philadelphia-based academic health system that is driving medical advances through clinical innovation, pioneering research and world-class education. The health system's 1,000 physicians and scientists share a common mission of bringing tomorrow's treatments to the bedside today, helping them achieve outcomes once thought impossible.

Press contact

Elizabeth Anderson
media@tiaa.orgOpens Email

Savi and TIAA are independent entities. A portion of any fee charged by Savi may be shared with TIAA to offset marketing costs for the program. In addition, TIAA has a minority ownership interest in Savi. TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information provided by Savi. TIAA does not provide tax or legal advice. Please contact your personal tax or legal adviser.

This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor's own objectives and circumstances.

1 Results experienced by Temple Health participants may not be typical of all participants. Individual results will vary.

2 The Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards are based on the Lipper Leader for Consistent Return rating, which is a risk-adjusted performance measure calculated over 36, 60 and 120 months. Lipper Leaders fund ratings do not constitute and are not intended to constitute investment advice or an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security of any entity in any jurisdiction. For more information, see Lipper Fund Awards from Refinitiv, ©2020 Refinitiv. All rights reserved. Used under license. The Award is based on a review of risk-adjusted performance of 39 companies for 2016, 36 for 2017, 35 for 2018 & 2019, and 30 for 2020. The award pertains only to the TIAA-CREF mutual funds in the mixed-asset category. Without such waivers ratings could be lower. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For current performance, rankings and prospectuses, please visit

3 Based on approximately $1.2 trillion of assets under management across Nuveen affiliates and TIAA investment management teams as of 9/30/20.