Summary: Employers have an opportunity to win loyalty by offering employees help with student loans or letting them exchange time off or remote work for that benefit.
By Jeff Smith
If you went to college in America, it’s highly likely that you went into debt for your education. Over 44 million Americans now hold a collective student loan debt of about $1.5 trillion with an average monthly payment of $351. For many, this added monthly expense is an extreme financial burden, leaving individuals and families susceptible to the dangers of letting student loans go unpaid. This negatively affects your credit score and puts your financial health at risk.
Despite the fact that student loan debt is now more crippling than ever, only about 4% of employers currently offer student loan debt repayment. It seems like an attractive prospect for young job seekers — but how do millennials actually feel about employers contributing to their student loan debt?
To dig deeper, we polled 1,000 Americans aged 18–34 and asked them what benefit (if any) they would be willing to give up in exchange for student loan forgiveness. We found that of those with student loan debt, 60% would be willing to give up an existing benefit. Some other findings included:
We surveyed 1,000 American millennials (ages 18–34) of all backgrounds to see how valuable student loan forgiveness would be to them. The results show that 6 out of 10 with student debt would be willing to give up part of their benefits package in exchange for student debt forgiveness, with work-from-home flexibility being the most popular choice and 401k matching coming in at second.
Age seemed to have a slight impact on which benefit was chosen. 20% of younger millennials (ages 18–24) would give up paid time off compared to only 12% of older millennials (ages 25–34).
On the other hand, older millennials were more willing to give up 401k matching — 17% chose this benefit compared to just 11% of their younger colleagues.
We also saw gender play a role in the choice of which benefit to give up — 29% of women said they would give up working from home, compared to only 18% of men.
This is further supported by a survey that shows that men work from home more than women, flying in the face of the popular notion that the typical remote worker is a mom in slouchy clothes tending to the kids while on a video call.
Our findings show that a significant portion of the young workforce wants student debt forgiveness from their employers and are even willing to forgo their current benefits to get it. But does it really pay off to give up a benefit like 401k matching in lieu of student loan repayment?
Every individual is different based on the amount of student debt and their own personal finance goals. Employers that contribute $100 per month to student loans may help save a couple thousand dollars in interest over a span of the seven-year loan. However, for a person making $56,000 annually and contributing 6% monthly to a 401k, employers can contribute roughly $15,000 with a standard 50% match over the same time period.
Student loan debt can cause stress, drop credit scores, and keep people financially behind, so it’s crucial to pay them off in a timely manner.
Companies have the power to alleviate some of the stress of student loans for their workers, although most aren’t currently offering any form of loan repayment. It’s clear that executives have a lot to reconsider when offering benefits packages in hopes of attracting satisfied, productive, and happy workers.
Jeff Smith is VP of Marketing at Self.