It would be super simple to fill up this column with horrifying statistics about student loan debt in America: we collectively owe $1.5 trillion, which works out to a just shy of $30,000 per borrower. Research shows debt-strapped adults are putting off buying houses and having kids, etc. etc. etc. 

But while the problem is easy to spot, it's incredibly hard to solve. One Y Combinator-backed startup thinks it's onto an innovative solution to chip away at the problem, however -- make it easier for businesses to offer student loan benefits rather than, say, free, organic snacks or on-site haircuts.

A benefit employees will truly get excited about

The company, Goodly, which was recently featured on Business Insider, has a simple pitch for businesses. Rather than spend their benefit budget paying for things like discounted gym memberships and free organic snacks, why not sign up with Goodly? The startup offers a simple way for employers to contribute to paying down employees' student debt much like they kick in a little each month towards their retirement accounts (though with no tax incentives), without a lot of additional administrative hassles.

The system is designed to be simple enough to attract even smaller businesses, and companies can choose the level of contribution that makes sense for them -- from $20 per beneficiary per month up to $200. The platform starts at $6 a month per participating employee, with prices rising to $12 per employee per month for additional features.

"You can offer a meaningful benefit for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day," co-founder Gregory Poulin told TechCrunch and even small contributions add up "When they have an employer contributing an extra $100 per months, it could help your average employee get out of debt almost a decade faster."

That's good for debt-burdened employees obviously, but Goodly's founders insist it's good for companies too, helping less well known firms compete for young (and even not so young but still in debt) talent. And as Poulin points out to TechCrunch, it's also "a way to help discover a more diverse talent pool as it surfaces up underrepresented parts of the population that are acutely dealing with student debt as a factor in their decision-making."

The problem of student debt is so massive that a small benefit via Goodly (or similar startups competing against it) might seem paltry, but as you probably have a set budget in mind for benefits anyway, why not spend that sum on something that's going to do the most good in your employees' lives? That's probably not a quinoa salad bar at lunch.

When it comes to recruiting "gym memberships aren't going to cut it," insists Poulin.

Ask any debt-burdened young adult you know whether they'd prefer the likes of beer Fridays and office massage chairs or help with their student loans, and I bet you'll quickly realize he's right.

Published on: Nov 14, 2018
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