The moment most college graduates are handed that diploma is the moment they must start paying back their student loans – and at an average $35,000 per student, the Class of 2015 is the most debt-ridden yet. But a new trend is helping lessen the financial burden.
More and more companies are enticing new graduates with student loan repayment assistance. For example, a U.S. branch of French financial firm Natixis Global Asset Management has begun reimbursing up to $10,000 in federal student loan money to its employees, according to the Boston Globe.
As other organizations begin to offer similar incentives, this can present a dilemma for the freshly minted graduate looking to tackle their debt and advance in their career at the same time.
Is working for a company – or changing jobs – for some student loan debt relief worth the incentive?
Employers Perceive Student Loan Repayment as Investment
The Globe, citing a Society of Human Resource Management survey, writes that only three percent of companies offer student loan repayment aid. It also notes that companies aren’t offering student debt aid as some kind of favor; they approach it as an investment that can pay itself off by drawing better talent into their ranks.
Top that off with receiving financial aid and it sounds like a win-win all around. But before taking a job with an employer offering student loan repayment, consider these pros and cons.
Benefits of Employer-Sponsored Student Loan Repayment
Getting paid … twice. Not only will you earn a salary, but you get a portion of your student loan debt repaid. Budget carefully, and with the assistance from your job, you’ll have your loan(s) paid off faster than from your income alone.
Gaining relevant work experience. Whether it’s your first job out of school or another position up the ladder, it’s a chance to further your skill set and advance your career.
Life becomes financially easier. With repayment assistance from an employer, more of your income is freed up to move forward with other major expenses, like buying a home/paying a mortgage, saving for retirement, or investing. Plus, you’ll be less likely to miss payments or default on that debt if you were previously struggling; this reflects well on your credit score, putting you in a better position to get approved for loans in the future.
Drawbacks of Employer-Sponsored Student Loan Repayment
Settling for a job. If a company’s student loan reimbursement is the main reason you’re seeking employment there, you could be settling for a less-than-ideal position.
The salary may be less than you’d be inclined to accept, counteracting many of the benefits of receiving student loan debt aid. (If you have $50,000 in debt but your salary is $30,000, loan reimbursement won’t make as much of an impact compared to a higher paying position.)
The job description may also not be the best fit for you, which could lead to performance issues or other problems that could get you terminated.
Regulations and time constraints. You might also have to work for months or even years before finally qualifying for employer financial aid.
In an email, a company spokesperson for Fidelity Investments told Student Loan Hero that in 2016, the company will begin offering employees $2,000 annually, spread over five years, towards their student loan debt – $10,000 in total. Fidelity employees must be at the firm for at least six months to be eligible.
This locks you into your job for the sake of your student loan debt, preventing you from moving on to better, more lucrative positions when the time feels right. And if you leave your job before working there for the minimum amount of time, you get zero repayment assistance. (According to The Simple Dollar, some employers may stipulate that their aid is contingent upon you making your loan payments; break this contract and your aid may be revoked.)
Not enough repayment. According to the Globe, companies signing on to compensate their employees with student loan debt help are likely ones that already pay their workers well; they’re more likely to comfortably afford their loan payments, making a compensation program a bit unnecessary. It also fails to address rising tuition costs, or reimburse students commensurate with their overall costs.
Companies/Industries That Help Pay Your Student Loans
Other major employers also offer student loan reimbursement for their employees. According to Mack Gelber of Monster.com, those include:
- PricewaterhouseCoopers, with $1,200 in annual aid
- Credit Suisse, where employees can get a 25% interest rate reduction off their loan
- ChowNow, with a $1,000 matching student debt repayment system
- Martin Health System in Stuart, Fla., offering nurses up to $2,000 a year
- Memorial Hermann, a Texas health care provider giving employees financial aid on a case-by-case basis.
You may also want to look into student loan repayment assistance according to the industry you work in. Some career fields known for offering financial aid include:
- Federal agencies
- Public service sector
- Automotive industry
Taking advantage of a financial perk like student loan repayment takes a lot of consideration, but ultimately, it depends on the industry you work in, your individual career prospects, the amount a prospective employer will reimburse you, and most important – how much student loan debt you have.
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