Student Loan Help at Work Could Become as Common as 401(k)s


| For Employees, For Employers, For Producers | June 13, 2018

  • Around 70 percent of college graduates are in debt today. The average person leaves school $30,000 in arrears, and many owe more than $100,000.
  • Hundreds of companies are now offering student loan assistance to their workers.
  • “It’s as meaningful to recent graduates as 401(k)s,” said Meera Oliva, chief marketing officer at Gradifi, a Boston-based firm that designs student loan repayment programs for companies.

 

Student loan assistance, which started as rare perk offered by a handful of companies, is finding its way into the mainstream menu of workplace benefits.

This year, Fidelity began to offer businesses a way to contribute to their workers’ education debt. Since then, more than two dozen companies have signed up and it expects that number to double by the year’s finish.

“This is going to grow rapidly over time,” said Asha Srikantiah, vice president of workplace emerging products at Fidelity. “We’re seeing so many more people who have debt and who are overwhelmed by that debt.”

Indeed, 7 in 10 college graduates have student loan debt. The average person leaves school $30,000 in arrears, while nearly 20 percent owe more than $100,000. Americans are now more burdened by education loans than they are by credit card or auto debt.

And nearly 90 percent of young workers say they’d commit to an employer for at least five years if they were offered help with their student loans, according to a study by the nonprofit, American Student Assistance.

“This is certainly emerging as a new and very important benefit,” said David Pratt, a professor at Albany Law School who studies employee benefits.

 

Jessica Crowley, who receives student loan assistance from her employer New York Air Brake.

Jessica Crowley used to dwell on an unpleasant thought. When her children began college, she’d still be repaying her own student loans.

But a few months ago, the company where she works announced a new benefit: student loan assistance.

Now, New York Air Brake, which makes train control systems, pays Crowley $166 a month toward her student loan balance, which means she’ll be debt-free sooner than she thought.

Cite: CNBC
Annie Nova
Published 12:30 PM ET Tue, 5 June 2018