Talent across generations have told us that financial worries are among the most significant sources of everyday stress. The younger the employee, the more anxious they tend to be about debt and not being paid enough. Probably weighing heavily on their minds is student loan obligations. But if you think that’s just a millennial concern, think again. Based on Pew Research analysis, U.S. student loan debt is 1.3 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a T), with 4 in 10 adults between 18-29 saddled with higher education balances, and 1 in 4 adults aged 30-44 paying off loans as well.
Not just a Millennial thing
When asked about the most coveted employee benefits, 60% of Millennials told us they want their employer to offer some form of student debt assistance – yet only 7% receive it. Half of GenXers want it too, and that goes for a third of Boomers. GenXers are likely to be paying off graduate degree obligations, and Boomers may be shouldering the burden of loans they took out on behalf of dependent students.
Impacting employees’ lives
As tuition costs continue to rise, and student debt increases in parallel, this is an area where companies can make a meaningful impact on employees’ lives. Student debt prevents employees from funding their 401Ks or saving for a home. The equivalent money employers contribute to the employee’s student debt could be funneled to these financial milestones and more. Ironically, in a time when higher education support benefits are needed the most, fewer employers are offering tuition reimbursement benefits (even though talent has told us this is a highly valued feature).
What’s the priority
Some pushback on student debt assistance is that it’s a band-aid for a greater problem that needs addressing - the escalating expense of higher education. But for employees struggling with unprecedented student debt loads, solving the societal issue is not the priority right now. They’d welcome any remedy, no matter how small, to a very personal financial pain. Employers adding generation-inclusive educational debt benefits to their employment proposition will also be adding to their competitive advantage in today’s tight talent market.
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