For our industry, there has been much talk and speculation aboutwhat might happen going forward with Donald Trump in the White House. Regardless ofwhat happens over the next for year, we are already seeing a newwave of employer policies, starting with student loan debt.

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This is a topic on the minds of many. Student loan debt worksout to be an average of $30,000 per student, which equates to $1.3trillion in national student debt.

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Why should a benefit advisor be concerned? For starters,employers are very concerned with the need for attractingemployees. Therefore, they are turning to their benefit advisorsfor suggestions on how to improve their benefits offering toattract and retain employees.

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Employers need to be creative to deliver a compensation packagethat is going to attract, retain, and motivate employees. TheAffordable Care Act, the millennial generation, and lack of skilledlaborers are just some of the factors that have employersscratching their heads as they search for ideas on how to fill openslots and maintain their workforce.

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With ACA equaling the playing field, traditional health andwelfare benefits are no longer the carrot, which draws candidatesto any particular employer.

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Many new benefits are now being considered to provide employerswith a competitive advantage. The benefit advisor should be awareof, and fluent on, everything from paternity leave, commutersubsidy, housing assistance, and quickly becoming one of the mostpopular, student loan repayment benefits.

Why is student loan repayment an important benefitconsideration?

New hires will jump to the first job, typically dismayed betweenthe salary they expected and the salary received. To pay down theirdebt, applicants are known to accept a lower offer, though withtheir eye on the next bump in increase or jumping ship for a moredesirable compensation package.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the millennial age group(both men and women) has an average tenure of 3.1 years. Considerthe average turnover costs and it’s easy to see why employers arelooking to sweeten the deal.

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Secondly, for those employees pursuing graduate degrees, thecost of the degree has current employees motivated to move up thecareer ladder. A student loan repayment benefit may help preventthe desire to look elsewhere in any transition period If theircurrent employer does not have an available mechanism in place foradvancement.

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Arming themselves with knowledge, trusted benefit advisorsshould be aware that 76 percent of respondents to the Life Delayed survey conducted by AmericanStudent Association agreed that their choice to take a jobwould be considerably affected or decided based on an employer'swillingness to offer a student loan repayment program.

Flexibility in plan design

Benefit advisors should already be holding workforce planningdiscussions with their clients.

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As part of their SOP, an advisor should be analyzing employeecensus data to understand the organizations demographics, engagingthe HR department in conversation regarding issues that areaffecting their abilities to recruit, maintaining or drivingemployees work-life balance struggles, and reviewing the employeehandbook to see what polices are already in place. This will helpto position you as a subject matter expert on work-life balance.

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Follow up your analysis with sharing best practices from some ofthe industry leaders. Employers like PwC, who typically lead theway in offering an attractive benefit package, are establishingcreative student loan repayment plans.

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We are seeing a variety of offerings, from offering a flatmonthly amount, to a bonus at milestone anniversary dates, to splitcontributions, and to student loan repayment and distribution intoa 401(k).

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For an employer considering a student loan repayment benefitoption, they will need to remember that this is considered taxableincome to the employee, unlike the familiar tuition reimbursement,which provides employers a deduction up to $5,250 paid on behalf ofthe employee. If including employer distribution into a 401(k)plan, employers will also need to remember to amend the plan.

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From an employee relations standpoint, it would be important toconsider recommending to your client that if they are offeringbenefits to a class of employee that it may be beneficial to keepemployee morale high by balancing the benefit offerings.

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If another employee does not have student loans, employersshould consider ensuring they offer a variety of work-life benefitoptions to meet variables in the workforce.

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As the trusted advisor, you can assist your client by todetermine if this benefit makes sense for their organization. Aquick Google search pulls up programs available such as Ed Assist,through Bright Horizons, which offer a student loan repaymentprogram that will allow for direct pay down of the student’sloan.

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