graduate's mortarboard on moneyJust 4 percent of employers offer some form of student loanrepayment assistance, although 2 percent are putting one in placeand 23 percent are considering adding it. (Photo: Fotolia)

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As paying for education becomes a bigger problem for employees,employers are exploring a range of education benefit offerings.

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According to “Education Benefits: 2019 Survey Results,” from theInternational Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 92 percent ofemployers provide some kind of education benefit, with tuition reimbursement/assistance being the mostcommon (63 percent offer it).

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Other common benefits include in-house training seminars, with61 percent of employers offering them; attendance at educationalconferences (51 percent); continuing education courses (50percent); coverage for licensing courses and exams (44 percent);personal development courses (35 percent); and 529 college savings plans (10 percent).

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Related: Gen Z is ready to learn, if you're ready toteach

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Tuition reimbursement is an oldie but goodie, with 57 percent oforganizations having offered such a program for between6 and 20 years and 27 percent having provided such abenefit for 21 years or more. Most such programs (87 percent)require employees to satisfy certain conditions upon completion oftheir study before reimbursement is paid, with the most commonamount reimbursed ranging from $5,000–$5,999.

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And 57 percent require employees to pay back tuitionreimbursement if they leave within a certain period of time aftertheir studies are done; 54 percent require them to remain for ayear.

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But workers aren't taking much advantage of it, regardless ofhow beneficial it is. “Only 1 percent to 5 percent of employeestake advantage of tuition reimbursement provided by their employer.This means, big picture, offering educational assistance isn't ahuge financial commitment for organizations in comparison to othertypes of benefit offerings,” says Julie Stich, CEBS, vice presidentof content at the International Foundation.

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Then there's student loan repayment assistance. Just 4 percentof respondents offer some form of this benefit, although 2 percentare putting one in place and 23 percent are considering addingit.

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But among company concerns regarding student loan repaymentassistance is the potential for resentment on the part of employeeswho paid off their own student loans; resentment among employeeswhose loans don't qualify for the benefit; turnover afterrequirements to get the benefit have been met; the high cost; andthe uncertainty and complexity of putting such a program intopractice.

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However, expansion of such offerings looks likely to continue,since student loan debt certainly isn't going anywhere. Says Stich,“Student loan repayment is a very new benefit offering. Its shortlifespan makes it difficult to measure success or anticipate apossible ROI.” She adds, “With high interest from employees and nofirm governmental guidelines in place, it's something to watchclosely in the future.”

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.