As employers continue to battle for top talent in a tight employment market, Philadelphia-based startup PeopleJoy is expanding a product, that it says is a viable weapon — the ability for employers to help its staffers pay off student loans.

CEO Emeka Oguh founded PeopleJoy about two years ago when he realized just how much student loan debt was impeding graduates’ abilities to buy a house, invest, save for retirement or start a family. Oguh and his wife had their own $400,000 debt load to worry about — Oguh has an MBA from Harvard Business School and his wife is a doctor — so the problem especially hit home. Armed with proceeds from the sale of his previous startup, a mobile app publishing company, Oguh launched PeopleJoy with the goal of addressing student loan burdens while giving employers an edge while wooing job candidates.

PeopleJoy, which has a team of about five, works with employers to set up customized student loan benefit programs, which could include contributing a fixed amount to employees’ loans sent to the loan servicer or contributing a percentage of what the employee pays.

In the first quarter of 2018, it’s also launching an option that would allow employees to have their monthly student loan payments taken out of their biweekly checks automatically, which can shorten the lifespan of a loan and reduce the overall interest a borrower pays by thousands, Oguh said.

“We got that straight from from existing clients,” he said. “Part of what we do is we take our innovation by talking with the customers.”

Those clients —  both small and large, with the biggest employing 48,000 — span industries and are mostly clustered in the Northeast, but PeopleJoy sells throughout the country.

It also helps employees navigate their own financial situations through one-on-one virtual counseling and provides a marketplace for borrowers who are in the right situation to refinance.

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