Big education bills affecting all generations in the workplace
Student debt isn’t just negatively affecting people’s ability to save enough for retirement. It’s also making it very difficult for people to buy cars or houses, open up a credit card, or start a family.
According to a recent survey by Kelton Global, on behalf of EdAssist, 72% of individuals with student debt said it was hurting their personal relationships and stalling their careers. Seventy-eight percent said that it has impacted their ability to save for retirement.
As college costs continue to soar, so are the amounts of student loan debt people are accruing and this doesn’t just apply to millennials. Many older people are carrying debt for their children or grandchildren rather than using that money to make sure they have a secure retirement.
“It was surprising that almost two-thirds of baby boomers are carrying student loan debt. I would have thought they would have been relieved of that; they would have paid off that loan debt,” says Chris Duchesne, vice president of client service and client relations for EdAssist in Watertown, Mass.
EdAssist is an education program service provider. Not only does it offer student debt loan repayment as a benefit but it also offers tuition assistance benefit programs that employees can take advantage of when furthering their education.
Continuing opportunities for education and development are really important for millennials, the company finds. More than half of those surveyed said that those opportunities for continuing education are more important than regular pay increases. Tuition assistance and student loan debt repayment benefits together make great recruitment and retention opportunities for employers, says Duchesne.
The survey found that 64% of respondents would be reluctant to go back to school for an advanced degree because their current student loan debt is so high and 63% said that the cost of a future degree would keep them from their desired education.
“Between taking on debt for dependents and the high demand for graduate degrees in today’s workforce, people of all ages are carrying student loan debt. As an employer we want to see our employees lead happy and fruitful lives. With the amount of debt degree-holding individuals are facing today, we feel it is right from a recruitment and retention perspective to help ease this burden for our employees,” says John Eshleman, manager of benefits for Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas, which offers student loan repayment benefits to employees.
Seventy-one percent of millennials who graduated from college in 2015 entered the workforce with student loan debt. The average amount of debt was $37,172. This generation is one of the most educated, with 61% of millennials having attended college, compared to only 46% of boomers, according to the survey.
“By offering this sort of program, it is psychologically meaningful because you have an option as an employer to give more money, but the fact is this is directed to student loan repayment, focusing on people at different life stages than other benefits address,” Duchesne says.
“By offering this sort of program, it is psychologically meaningful because you have an option as an employer to give more money, but the fact is this is directed to student loan repayment, focusing on people at different life stages than other benefits address.”
Many benefits programs are directed at workers with families or those over the age of 35. There’s not a lot of programs that target the other end of the spectrum.
NVIDIA, a Silicon Valley technology company, began offering EdAssist’s student loan repayment option to its employees on Jan. 1, 2016.
“Our intent was to improve employees’ experience. We know that student loan debt is one of the biggest struggles that new college grads are facing today, so what we wanted to do is extend our help as a benefits team to help them address that struggle so they can focus on other things,” says Andrea Trudelle, director of global benefits for NVIDIA.
“What it does from my perspective is it prevents them from living their best life,” she says. “Their student loan debt is so significant, usually upwards of $40,000 or more. For new college grads, they are starting out at a lower pay so they are struggling to meet necessary needs like housing and food and we wanted to help out with that.”
The program is very popular at NVIDIA. It pays up to $6,000 per year, up to a $30,000 lifetime maximum, toward the employee’s principal student debt loan payment. Employees are eligible to apply for the program up to three years after the date they graduated.
EdAssist said that the student loan crisis is “more than a crisis of cash; it’s a societal crossroads. People are desperate for help.”
According to its research, nearly half of respondents said they’re so stressed they’d prefer help with school debt over budgeting, credit card debt and even retirement. Nearly one-third of respondents said that debt repayment is the most important job benefit, according to EdAssist.