Student loans hang over the heads of 44 million Americans, with debt running well over a trillion dollars. It's a huge concern, and those who took out this debt will do just about anything to pay it down.

Self Lender surveyed 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 and found out that 60 percent of them were willing to give up at least one perk in exchange for help paying down their student loans. The results:

  • 23 percent would give up working from home, making it the most disposable benefit
  • 29 percent of women would give up working from home, compared with only 18 percent of men
  • 20 percent of younger Millennials (ages 18 to 24) would give up paid time off, compared with only 12 percent of older Millennials (ages 25 to 34)
  • 15 percent would give up 401(k) matching
  • 14 percent would give up paid time off
  • 6 percent would give up health benefits

These numbers seem to indicate that a student-loan repayment program could be an attractive benefit and something you should think about. That said, student-loan repayment programs only benefit a portion of your workforce and you should be aware of that. Someone who didn't take out loans for school, or who has already paid off their debt, should not be given a smaller benefits package in favor of those who do owe money.

While I'm in favor of better salaries rather than debt repayment assistance, it is true that money specifically designated for debt repayment can seem quite attractive and help lower stress. Debt can cause a tremendous amount of stress, and employees under stress will never perform as well as those who feel financially secure.

Remember that student loans aren't the only form of debt your employees may be carrying. Offering help with medical debt or even mortgages may be something you wish to look into--a general debt repayment help rather than simply a student loan benefit. That way all your employees will benefit.

Regardless of the fairness, though, debt repayment benefits are popular with your younger employees, and as Gen Z enters the workforce, they will likely favor such benefits as well.

But don't literally cut vacation and health care to help employees pay down debt. The last thing you need is miserable, burned-out employees drowning in medical debt.

Published on: Jan 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of