money and mortarboard Only about4 percent of employers offer student loan benefits, so it's one ofthe best ways to set your company apart when recruiting topmillennial talent. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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It's a commonly cited statistic: Americans have more than $1.6trillion in outstanding student loan debt. In fact, student loan debtis so crippling that in 2016 the New York Fed sounded an alarmabout negative household income, and its potential impact on the future of theeconomy.

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Related: 10 states with the highest average student loandebt

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As a result, it's no surprise that many workers are hoping forhelp with their student loans from their employers. If you want toattract top talent—and retain millennialemployees—consider adding student loan repayment to your benefitspackage through a third party vendor.

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Workers value benefits above a higher salary

If employees are feeling stressed about student loan debt, itmight seem intuitive to just raise their salaries. After all, withmore money these workers would be able to pay off a larger chunk oftheir student loans. However, today's employees are interested inthe full package, not just salary.

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There is a body of research spanning decades that indicates thatemployees are more interested in better benefits than in highersalaries. To capitalize on the importance that employees place onbenefits, however, decision makers must be deliberate about thetypes of benefits and perks that workers are most interested in atthe current moment. And right now, student loan repayment is highon the list of what workers want.

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Recent research from SCORE, a business mentoringnetwork, indicates that four in five employees prefer betterbenefits or perks to a raise in pay. Workers feel that perkscontribute to a higher quality of life and make them feel valued.In fact, quality of life is so important to millennials that theywould take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for an improvement.

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Today's employees want student loan repayment benefits

According to a survey from American Student Assistance, student loan debtis the biggest financial concern for workers aged 22 to 33. Thereport also show that 86 percent of employees will commit fiveyears to a company in exchange for student loan repayment help.

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On top of that, nearly half of employees consider student loanassistance when choosing a job, according to SCORE.

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In terms of most desirable benefits, according to the HarvardBusiness Review, student loan assistance ranks fairly high, onlybeat out by better health insurance and perks like flexible hoursand vacation time.

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Only about 4 percent of employers offer student loan benefits,according to the Society for Human Resource Management, so it's oneof the best ways to set your company apart when recruiting topmillennial talent. By adding a student loan repayment program, youcan encourage candidates to choose your company and stick aroundfor longer.

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Address employee pain points and reap the benefits

Student loans are such a pain point with many workers that theperceived value of a dollar going toward student loan repayment ishigher than the perceived value of higher pay. Repaymentassistance, therefore, seems more attractive to employees than ahigher salary.

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While there are costs to offering a student loan repaymentprogram, employers are likely to see net benefits on their end.According to PricewaterhouseCooper, financial stress —including that caused by student loans — impacts companies' bottomlines through absenteeism, taking care of financial issues while atwork, and increased health costs. Help employees by providingfinancial wellness perks, and you could actually improve youroverall business operations.

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Right now, student loan repayment benefits don't enjoy the sametax advantage for companies that 401(k) benefits and other perksdo. However, as more workers demand these benefits, and as moreemployers pressure lawmakers, it's likely that policymakers willrespond, leading to a win-win for employers and employeesalike.


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Gregory Poulin is the co-founder and CEO ofGoodly.Goodly lets companies offer student loan assistance as an employeebenefit. 

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