Intermountain scales back student loan repayments

Intermountain Health, a 33-hospital system based in Salt Lake City, has changed its loan repayment processes for caregivers in a region that includes Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming.

Sara Quale, a health system spokesperson, confirmed the news in a statement shared with Becker's on Jan. 11, saying Intermountain found opportunities last year "to create a more consistent experience for caregivers by harmonizing our loan repayment processes across the region." Those changes started Jan. 1. 

Previously, Intermountain offered to pay up to $5,250 annually on student loans, Ms. Quale said. The repayment was available to all benefit-eligible caregivers no matter their degree or discipline and was capped at $10,500 per person.  

Ms. Quale said Intermountain is now using additional criteria to determine eligibility for loan assistance, including labor demands and which positions are hard to fill.

The change has prompted concerns from some workers, The Denver Post reported on Jan. 10.

Bethany Stoupine, BSN, RN, a nurse at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, told the newspaper that without the payment, she will have to delay paying off her remaining $5,000 in student loans this year.

"Student loans are very expensive and with wages not matching the rate of inflation, I was really counting on this stipend in my budget," she told the Post.

Ms. Quale pointed to Intermountain's additional offerings, other than the modified loan repayment, such as access to tuition assistance, certification assistance, debt-free degrees through Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs, and other department education payments or employer-paid education assistance.  

She said the health system's Path to Education, Advancement, and Knowledge program also allows benefit-eligible caregivers to have access to up to $5,250 annually for two years for select degrees, certificates and professional skills courses, and high school diplomas.

This can be gifted to a family member as well.  

Additionally, Intermountain caregivers have access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to help pay off their student loans, Ms. Quale said.

Intermountain is not the only hospital or health system to recently scale back benefits. In December, Aurora-based Children's Hospital Colorado announced it was scaling back its education benefit program for workers for certain healthcare degrees. The hospital later adjusted its plan for current enrollees after feedback from affected workers.

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