When searching for a new employer, most people look at the full package of benefits they’ll get in return. How much will your new salary or hourly rate be, and will you have paid vacation, health insurance, and dental? After those considerations, things like company culture, long-term career objectives, and your daily commute come into play.
But, what about other benefits? With private pensions going the way of the dinosaur, employees typically look for a 401(k) – and a company match – to help in that respect. Beyond retirement help, however, a new study has concluded that many workers – and especially young people – are looking for help paying down their student debt.
The new study from Student Loan Hero, which surveyed 1,763 adults, found that, out of adults with student loan debt, more than 50% considered student loan debt repayment an important workplace benefit. Further, 46% of adults with debt revealed that, if given the option, they would choose student loan repayment assistance over a 401(k) match.
While student loan repayment assistance isn’t the norm yet, many employers – and especially firms who hire young people – have heeded the call for this extra layer of help. That includes Student Loan Hero itself, a company that was created to help young people navigate their student loan issues and pay down debt faster. As of last year, the company began offering student loan repayment assistance to employees who need help and chose to opt in.
Seven More Companies that Help Employees Pay Down Student Loans
This type of help may be growing in popularity, but it’s not widely offered quite yet. According to the Society of Human Resources Management, only 3% of U.S. firms offered student loan repayment as a workplace perk in 2015. Still, 3% is something – and it’s definitely better than nothing. If you’re struggling with student loan debt and looking for help, consider an employer that offers this up-and-coming workplace benefit. Here are eight more businesses whose loan repayment programs are already up and running:
Textbook behemoth Chegg announced a student loan repayment assistance benefit for employees back in 2015. Created for both employees with existing student loans and lifelong learners who want to head back to school, this benefit is extended annually and based on employment, position, and hours worked. The company also plans to roll out an online loan management tool to help employees optimize payments and pay down loans faster.
Chegg hopes to get the word out and increase the prevalence of this benefit nationwide. “We will continue to speak out publicly and nationally on this subject,” said Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig in a press release. “But we also want to start helping our own employees now and start a new trend in business benefits. With any luck, other companies will soon follow our lead.”
Another student loan refinance firm, CommonBond, claims to offer the most comprehensive student loan repayment assistance program in existence. With their new program, which was announced late in 2015, employees can receive up to $1,200 in loan repayment assistance annually. The big difference is, this benefit lasts as long as the employee has loans and remains employed by CommonBond.
Why so generous? Here’s what they said about it in a press release: “Half of our team is currently paying off student loans, so we decided to launch this benefit to help our team reduce their monthly student loan payments,” said CommonBond CEO and Co-Founder David Klein. “Our team members are very excited about it, and so am I.”
Fidelity may be better known for its 401(k) offerings, but the mutual fund giant deserves some praise for its own workplace benefits as well. Not only does Fidelity offer an adoption benefit, they offer backup dependent care, a commuter benefit, and yes, student loan repayment assistance. With their new “Step Ahead Student Loan Assistance” program, employees can receive up to $2,000 per year in student loan assistance with a lifetime cap of $10,000. These funds are paid directly to your loan servicer on your behalf.
Workplace innovation firm Kronos offers its own form of student loan repayment assistance along with tuition reimbursement assistance for continued learning. The annual benefit is capped at around $500, but can extend as long as you have loans and work for the firm. As far as tuition reimbursement goes, Kronos offers generous coverage of pre-approved continuing education or degree-seeking courses related to employment.
Natixis Global Asset Management
Although a student loan repayment benefit existed before, Natixis Global Asset Management enhanced this perk in early 2016. Starting this year, the $1,000 annual payment is available to all Natixis employees who have private or federal student loans. That works out to around $83 per month paid directly to your loan provider while you remain employed with the firm. A cap of $10,000 in total repayment applies.
“Helping people achieve their financial goals is at the heart of our business and our industry, so we knew that leading by example was the right thing to do,” said John Hailer, CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management in a press release. “Today’s student loan burden is tomorrow’s underfunded retirement problem, so it is imperative for companies to join with policymakers, educators and employees to address this critical issue.”
Wisconsin-based Powertex Group started offering their own student loan repayment program earlier this year, mostly as a means to gain and retain top-notch workers in their niche. According to Gray Powers, the company’s vice president of sales, it’s a win-win. “Based on that ability to help those folks who come in and engage with our organization and that will also provide benefits to the organization as well as we help them achieve their goals,” said Powers in an interview with Eau Claire-based WEAU News.
Their Student Loan Paydown Plan, which should be used by around a quarter of the firm’s employees, provides around $100 in monthly student loan repayment assistance.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) offers an array of benefits that make working there lucrative, and that includes the Student Loan Paydown program. Employees who choose this option can receive up to $1,200 per year in loan repayment assistance with a total cap of $10,000.
Why offer this benefit? Here’s what PwC had to say: “We see student loan debt as a major societal issue. The current state of student loans is troubling—$1.3 trillion of outstanding student loans, a $35,000 average loan balance for the class of 2015, and 40 million Americans with student debt—we need to start somewhere to help alleviate the burden.”
Student Loan Repayment Assistance: What to Watch Out For
If you think student loan repayment assistance sounds like a dream come true, make sure you know what you’re getting into. First, it’s important to note that some companies offer tuition assistance and not loan repayment assistance. While tuition assistance can help you pay if you choose to go back to school, it won’t help with your existing loans. All of the companies on this list offer student loan repayment assistance, however, which is a distinction we want to make.
Second, depending on the program, you may be required to pay income taxes on any assistance you receive. It all depends on how the program is set up and how your repayment assistance is reported. Check with your employer or potential employer for more details before you make assumptions about getting off scot-free.
Another factor to consider is what you may be giving up. Where student loan repayment assistance may be available to you, it’s possible you’re giving up another perk to receive this help. Make sure you know the whole picture before you commit to one workplace benefit over another. The math may work in favor of student loan repayment assistance, but it doesn’t hurt to ask questions and run the numbers, either.
Still, student loan repayment assistance can be a huge boon to your finances if you need help paying down loans and find an employer willing to help. All things considered, this is one employee benefit you don’t want to overlook.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. She blogs at ClubThrifty.com and teaches others how to write online at EarnMoreWriting.com.
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Does your employer offer student loan repayment assistance? Would you accept this benefit? Why or why not?