Captain Obvious: New Grads Would Love a Job That Offers Student Loan Help

Portrait of two young perspective designers discussing project scheme
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In a professional world where startups are the pinnacle of company culture and the promise of perks reigns supreme, there seems to be this myth that young people won’t be satisfied with a job unless they have access to a beer fridge and an air hockey table.

(Full disclosure: We have both here at The Penny Hoarder HQ, and they are pretty great.)

Still, as a fairly recent grad myself, I can think of a few more perks and benefits that I value more than snacks and games — things like a generous 401(k) match and comprehensive health insurance.

But according to a new survey from the folks over at Millennial Personal Finance, there’s another benefit recent grads are after — and it’s not necessarily what first comes to mind when you think about traditional 9-to-5 perks.

Is Student Loan Assistance the Hottest Thing Since 401(k)s?

The survey of 500 recent college graduates with student loan debt who were working full time, found that young professionals are willing to forgo many traditional employee benefits in favor of student loan repayment programs.

In fact, the results revealed that a relatively significant 23% of respondents said they would willingly give up health care benefits in favor of employer-paid student loan repayment assistance. Another 38% said they would give up dental benefits if it meant their employer would help with their loan repayment efforts, while 33% said they would give up retirement benefits for the same perk.

The survey also found that 46% of the young professionals said they would forgo paid time off if it meant being able to take advantage of student loan assistance — which makes sense. It’s often difficult for young people to wrap their minds around paying into retirement accounts or saving up for travel when they’re staring down a mountain of student loan debt.

A Temporary Fix for a Lasting Problem

The good news for grads is that student loan repayment benefits are actually starting to pop up around the professional world. In fact, 19% of those surveyed said they currently receive student loan repayment benefits in some form from their employer — and the trend seems to be growing.

In 2016, former Google employee Laurel Taylor launched a service that aims to help businesses offer student loan repayment benefits to their employees. Taylor claims this particular work perk encourages young workers to stick around, thereby reducing the job-hopping trend we’re seeing in the professional world today.

Not surprisingly, 84% of recent grads surveyed by Millennial Personal Finance said they would strongly consider one job offer over another if the employer offered a student loan benefit.

However, some experts argue that this new system is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole — that the root of the problem is the cost of higher education, not a young person’s ability to pay off massive debts on an entry-level salary.

Even so, student loan repayment as a workplace benefit doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. A new bill introduced in Congress earlier this year aims to make loan repayment contributions tax-exempt, much like 401(k) plans, in an effort to make the new workplace benefit more enticing to employers and employees alike.

So, while it’s no long-term solution to the underlying problem of the inflated cost of college, the concept of employer-assisted loan repayment benefits seems to be sticking for now — and until something is done about the root of the problem, I can’t say I blame young people for seeking out the most enticing perks.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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