For the past 20 years, NVIDIA has made a name for itself in visual computing and computer graphics. Its technology is integral in the gaming, professional visualization, datacenter and automotive industries, and used by some of the world’s largest computer companies, including Microsoft, Android, Xbox and PlayStation, to power their graphic systems.

And, because it is a part of such a competitive industry, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company — which has 9,200 employees — has worked hard to provide benefits and create a culture that not only attracts, but retains skilled employees.

“We’re a unique company,” says Hector Marinez, director of corporate communications for NVIDIA. “In the last 10 years, we have doubled the number of employees we have. The benefits here have grown with the company. It is top-notch. If you go to many companies that are 20-years-old, you don’t feel the invigoration and energy that is here at a company like NVIDIA.”

One such benefit is student loan debt repayment, a new benefit offering by NVIDIA through EdAssist.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“Our intent was to improve employees’ experience,” says Andrea Trudelle, director of global benefits at NVIDIA. “We know that student loan debt is one of the biggest struggles that new college grads are facing today, so what we wanted to do is extend our help as a benefits team to help them address that struggle so they can focus on other things,” she says.

“[Student debt] prevents them from living their best life,” she continues. “Their student loan debt is so significant — usually upward of $40,000 or more. For new college grads, they are starting out at a lower pay so they are struggling to meet necessary needs like housing and food, and we wanted to help out with that.”

The program is very popular at NVIDIA. It pays up to $6,000 per year, up to a $30,000 lifetime maximum, toward the employee’s principal student debt payment. Employees are eligible to apply for the program up to three years after the date they graduated.

Through EdAssist, NVIDIA pays the student loan provider directly.

“We apply the amount we pay toward the principal to help them buy down their loans sooner, helping them save money on the interest they would pay on the full loan period,” Trudelle says.

The loan repayment program is only good for federally-approved student loans.

Chris Duchesne, vice president of client services and client relations for EdAssist in Watertown, Mass., says that NVIDIA’s program is fairly new so he doesn’t have a lot of data on how popular the program is among employees. But, EdAssist has been working with other corporations for more than a year and “what we’ve seen is a high degree of interest and participation for those employees who find themselves in that situation.”

EdAssist helps NVIDIA market the program to its employees with topical webinars, one-on-one counseling and onsite events.

“We have a team of advisers who engage one-on-one and think through individual situations,” Duchesne adds. “We bring advisers on site who hold office hours with employees and start them down the path of how to rethink their student loan debt and what they are going to do about it.”

“It is not just a financial benefit,” he says. “It is the opportunity to have much different outcomes and impact the company’s talent.”

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“It is not just a financial benefit. It is the opportunity to have much different outcomes and impact the company’s talent.”

NVIDIA also offers fairly extensive retirement plan options, including a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k). The company kicks in a flat dollar-for-dollar matching contribution up to $2,500 per year on both types of accounts. The match amount is determined by NVIDIA each year, and an employee must be employed on Dec. 31 to receive it.

NVIDIA also offers a suite of unconventional employee benefits. Like other large corporations, NVIDIA offers a high-deductible healthcare plan but, because the campus is located fairly far from town, in April it opened its own near-site clinic where its employees have access to private doctors.

“That helps save them time,” Trudelle says. “There is no waiting. We also pay for them [with Lyft] to get there so they don’t have to get into their cars.”

“It’s our answer to onsite health care. They get primary care, preventative, chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, all [their] primary care needs, no specialties,” she adds.

Kaiser Permanente teamed up with the NVIDIA Health Center to provide Kaiser’s physicians and innovative approach to patient care to employees.

Because the company offers a high-deductible plan, employees do pay for their visit, which costs $90. After they meet their deductible, they pay their percentage of the co-insurance. It saves both parties money and time, Trudelle says.

NVIDIA also has an onsite dentist, and The Palo Alto Medical Foundation mobile clinic comes on campus twice a month.

“We are solving the access-to-care problem, and we’re solving the convenience problem,” Trudelle says. “We are trying to help our employees get more time back in their lives.”

NVIDIA’s tuition reimbursement program is for employees who want to go back to school. They can receive $5,250 a year through that program for qualified job-related educational expenses, including tuition and books, when they earn a “B” or better in their class. It also pays for eligible employees to complete an engineering master’s degree through the Stanford Center for Professional Development.

Employees also can save for future college expenses through the company’s 529 College Savings Plan with ScholarShare. They can make deductions to the plan through payroll deduction, and their money grows tax-free within the 529 account.

Among other benefits, NVIDIA offers onsite cafeterias, where the food costs are subsidized by the company, a Bright Horizons program, which is an employer-sponsored child care provider, and onsite automotive oil changes twice a month.

“As a user of a lot of those benefits, I can attest to it being a great convenience,” Marinez says. “I have two elementary school kids and our weekends are taken up by sports. Getting the oil changed may seem trivial for most, but it is nice when you can get it done during the day and not on weekends. It makes life easier.”

Overall, the benefits are paying off well for the company, Trudelle says.

“We do value our employees. Our intent is to help them live the best life they can live,” she says. “Our employees are less stressed. It helps them be more productive. We’re also gaining more engagement from our employees. For us, it is not always about the money when it comes to our employees. We don’t go for the lowest-cost programs. We go for the programs that best fit our population.”

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