Thank you for the opportunity to respond. You are asking an important question, and a question that employers seek to better understand when considering the deployment of student debt repayment as a benefit. Let’s dive into the available data:
In a study just released by American Student Assistance of employees 22–33 years old, 86% stated they would stay with an employer for 5 years if their employer helped pay down their student loans**. The same cohort ranks student debt repayment as the third most important benefit they seek from an employer — behind health insurance and a 401k match, and above HSAs, commuter benefits, and financial planning.
With nearly 60% of young employees prioritizing paying off their student debt over retirement, there is a mismatch between the benefits employees are seeking at those being offered by managers and employers. Currently, only 4% of companies offer student debt repayment as a benefit, while 92% of workers 22–33 say they would take advantage of the benefit**.
Why is this benefit so coveted?: Today, more than 70% of students are graduating with student debt. They spend, on average, almost two decades (!) paying it off. Respondents to the ASA study reported that their student debt has impacted their ability to meet their daily needs (27%), start their own business (47%), take a vacation (69%), or add to their family (78%)*. As a result, millennials are struggling to build assets, save for the future, and develop the sorts of entrepreneurial small businesses that employ more than 50% of the population.
Employers who have (a) the connection and empathy to recognize this core need of our emerging workforce and (b) the capabilities to quickly leverage their HR department as a center of innovation, will realize disproportionate loyalty from their employees.
This is an opportunity for global leaders who are desperate for more readily available talent, such as in STEM professions, to lean in and deliver a clear market signal of reward. If we want to develop our workforce, if we want more students to pursue STEM, if we want greater diversity in computer science and beyond, student debt repayment is a powerful incentive to improve these outcomes.
*Life Delayed: http://www.asa.org/site/assets/files/3793/life_delayed.pdf