If you’re under 30 and college educated, there’s a good chance you’re paying off student loan debt (a 49% chance, to be exact). And while earning more money is one obvious way to pay your loans off faster, the opportunity to increase your salary only comes around every so often—so you may be looking for other ways to pay off more of your loan, faster.
One newer employee benefit is student loan assistance. While it’s still relatively uncommon, the number of companies offering this as a benefit is increasing each year—and there’s no reason your company can’t add to next year’s growth statistics.
Many people assume that their employer’s benefit package is fixed, but in most cases the people responsible for determining what’s in the package (whether the COO in a small startup or a team of HR specialists in a large organization) are constantly looking for ways to keep their employees engaged and happy—and ultimately give them another reason to stick with the job. The more these people hear from employees (like you!) that student loan benefits are desirable, the higher the chance it gets added to your benefit package, so it’s a worthwhile conversation to have. Here are some tips for approaching the topic.
There are a few types of student loan benefit programs, so it’s worth understanding the options before you propose your company adopts one.
Some employers simply give cash towards their employees’ loans, but keep in mind that this is the cash equivalent of giving everyone with a student loan a raise—so other programs may be preferable to the employer.
Another option is to make payments directly to the student loan servicer, which ensures the money is spent on loans as the use of the funds isn’t left up to employees’ discretion.
Lastly, some companies partner with vendors such as refinancing companies to offer special rates to their employees, saving them money over the life of the loan. In some cases, this doesn’t cost the employer anything—making it a compelling sell to a team trying to fit everything into a set budget.
You’ll want to present the idea to your employer in a way that explains what value the benefit will bring the company—through a mix of quantitative and qualitative data points.
From a numbers perspective, you can point to the fact that student loan benefits are increasing in popularity, urging your employer to be an early adopter of what’s sure to become a widespread benefit. You might even provide numbers specific to your company: What percentage of employees have student loans or their average loan balance can be a compelling case for adding the benefit. You could even provide an example of how much an employee might save on interest if the company were to provide, for example, $200 per month towards student loans. Of course, you’ll need your colleagues to provide some data in order to do this (see below on forming a coalition), but being specific can really drill the point home.
Qualitative data can be equally as compelling: Perhaps you have a friend who recently took one job over another due to a great student loan benefit, or you’ve overheard multiple colleagues complaining about the burden of paying off their loans. Compile any and all evidence that student loans are top-of-mind for employees—meaning that solving (or at least ameliorating) the problem will make them happier than a benefit that doesn’t provide as much relief.
At the end of the day, anything that makes hiring and retaining employees easier and betters an employer’s brand is desirable to companies of all sizes—so the more you can create the case that student loan benefits will do just that, the better.
You might also consider approaching the topic as a group—or at least having a coalition of colleagues who are willing to back you up. Doing so will not only give you some credibility (as it’s concrete proof, not just your word, that student loans are burdensome to many employees), but can also help to generate some buzz in the company about the topic—making it all the more likely that management will take action.
It doesn’t have to be a formal group, but might even start as a result of some conversations you have over lunch or coffee. By putting your heads together, you may be able to create an even stronger case—and better the chances that you and your colleagues can start paying off your loans faster with the help of your employer.