Staples implements student loan benefit

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Staples on Tuesday announced the launch of its student loan repayment plan, joining a growing number of companies offering the workplace benefit to employees burdened with student debt.

The office-supply retailer said the first phase of its program targets specific new hire sales associates and “high potential and top performers” — employees throughout the company who have been nominated by leadership. Eligible employees — active, full-time U.S. associates with at least one outstanding loan obligation, who have obtained or are in the process of receiving a degree from an accredited institution — will have their loan principal paid at $100 per month for 36 months.

A Staples spokesperson said the program will benefit approximately 2,000 of its 74,000 employees. Down the line, the benefit will be offered to additional groups of employees, Staples said.

“Offering a student loan repayment benefit will help with recruiting, retention and engaging employees as well as drive loyalty,” says Regis Mulot, Staples’ executive vice president, global human resources. "Additionally, it will increase attraction and expand penetration with a younger-aged workforce."

The plan is being administered by

Part of the motivation behind the benefit is the company’s large millennial population, Staples said. More than 70% of college grads leave school with student loan debt and 42% of millennials say debt is their biggest concern.

See also: 5 reasons student loan repayment is the next big benefit

Staples also offers a tuition reimbursement program that offers eligible associates reimbursement for a portion of their tuition fees based on number of years of service. The company’s Dependent Scholarship Program provides 30 awards of $3,000 to associates’ dependents who plan to continue their education at a college, university or vocational-technical school.

Though only about 4% of employers currently offer student loan repayment benefits, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management, big name firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Fidelity have begun offering the perk, pointing to growing enthusiasm.

See also: PwC prioritizes student loan debt repayment benefits

“Employers are offering this because the talent war race is real,” founder and CEO Brendon McQueen said earlier this year at Employee Benefit News’ Dig|Benefits conference. “It will recruit, retain and engage [employees].”

Student debt is a growing problem in the U.S., with average student debt at an all-time high of more than $37,000, according to the latest figures.

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