Today’s grads carry more debt than ever
Between tuition hikes, cost of living increases, inflation, and beyond, college costs more today than it ever has—and students are taking out larger loans to pay for it. Recent Handshake survey data found that more than half of the class of 2024 expects to carry student loan debt, and of those graduates, almost 70% say their debt will influence which jobs they consider upon graduation.
“When I’m looking for jobs, I have to look for what will pay off my interest on my loans,” a rising senior at the University of Northern Iowa shared. “When I get out of college, it’s like, OK: I have to make sure I can not only pay off that interest, but also start paying down that principal. All while trying to keep up with car repairs, medical bills, and all of these different things where the costs are always rising because of inflation.”
A new generation of “work perks”
Luckily, employers understand this reality and increasingly many are offering new forms of employee benefits to ease the burden. Chief among them are student loan repayment benefits.
There are different ways that this type of benefit comes to life, depending on the employer; one might offer a monthly stipend to employees to directly pay off student loans, while another might match an employee’s student loan payment in the form of a 401(k) contribution. But the common goal is clear: help employees feel relief from the pressures of their student debt.
For example, recognizing the impact of rising costs of secondary education on the overall financial well-being of early talent, investor-owned asset management firm, Vanguard, established their “Student Loan Repayment Program” in 2016 to help ease the burden of student loan debt. The benefit offers employees within five years of their graduation date from an undergraduate or graduate degree assistance with their monthly payment to loan servicers for a six-year term.
Student loan repayment benefits are gaining momentum in the world of early talent recruiting and they’re incredibly compelling for students who are in the market for full-time jobs after earning their diploma. “[Student loan repayment benefits] are going to be on my radar for jobs after grad school, because that comes with a price tag for sure,” said a junior at Rhode Island College when asked about companies that offer the perk. “Especially since I’m looking at going out of state… that is something that’s really appealing to me.”
Student loan repayment on the rise
This new benefit isn’t a fleeting phenomenon; employers have been steadily adopting student loan perks in recent years. On Handshake, there’s been a 243% increase in the number of active full-time jobs mentioning student loan repayment keywords from June 2019 to June 2023.
Travelers Insurance introduced their “Travelers Paying It Forward Savings Program” in 2020 as a way to help employees pay down student loan debt without sacrificing their retirement savings. The program essentially mirrors the company’s standard 401(k) matching program, but instead of matching an employee’s contributions to a retirement savings account, Travelers matches their student loan payments. Since the program began, the company has contributed more than $6.6 million toward the 401(k) accounts of the more than 1,600 employees who have enrolled in the program.
A leading provider of student loan debt assistance benefits for other employers, Fidelity Investments, offers student loan repayment perks up to $15,000 for its own associates. “To date we’ve helped employers make over one million payments totaling more than $200 million towards paying down student debt for their employees,” they shared with Handshake.
If you’re intrigued by the prospect of a job that helps pay your bills through more than just a paycheck, here are the industries with the most roles mentioning student loan repayment benefits on Handshake:
- Healthcare & Services (31%)
- Non-Profit (23%)
- Government, Law & Politics (14%)
- Financial Services (8%)
- Education (8%)
With these industries leading the pack in student loan benefits, it’s no wonder why more Gen Z jobseekers are considering stable government gigs, eyeing high-paying semiconductor careers, and pursuing fulfilling paths in education.
Which employers offer student loan repayment benefits?
Below, you’ll find the Handshake profiles for over a dozen employers at the forefront of evolving benefits for the next generation of hires — such as Abbott, who launched their “Freedom 2 Save” program in 2018 to enable employees with student loans to divert the 2% minimum contribution they’d normally have to contribute to their 401(k)s to receive a 5% match to pay off their loans faster.
And this is by no means an exhaustive list! You can use the search bar on Handshake to search roles by key words, like “student loans” or “loan repayment benefit,” to find relevant jobs and internships filtered especially for you.