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Student Loan Benefits - New Grads and the 2021 Workforce

Even if the college experience was a bit unusual in 2020 and graduations in 2021 will feel different, one thing remains the same – hiring season.

The new wave of job seekers will begin their search in a job market unlike any of us faced.

While unemployment has hit records across the country, forecasters are expecting a growth in job opportunities mid-year as our economy recovers from the pandemic.1 This is good news, but also means that the level of competition for jobs will be much higher than in previous years. Attracting the best talent will require offering unique packages and quality incentives, and one that new college graduates will most likely be looking for: help paying off debt.

Your employees are burdened by student loan debt more than ever. And the numbers aren’t pretty.

Over 44 million Americans owe a total of $1.7 trillion in student loan debt  — more than both credit card and auto loan debt. While we wait for the latest numbers, we know that the average 2019 graduate has over $29,000 in student loan debt, and 14 percent of parents took out an average of $37,200 in federal loans.2

There has been a lot of discussion regarding student loan forgiveness in the news recently as Present Biden works to introduce new relief bills. While politicians battle out the details of how much that forgiveness will be (estimates are around anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000) there are ways you, as benefit professionals, can help them manage student loan burdens for your employees.3

Employee Financial Assistance Programs

Financial assistance programs may seem like a no-brainer to you. For some, though, getting buy-in from groups outside HR is a must in order to implement these programs. So, as you’re pitching new programs to help employees manage their student loan burden, show the C-suite what’s in it for the company.

Simply put, you want your employees to have a great employment experience, especially those coming into a professional setting for the first time. Providing a benefits package that addresses their needs speaks directly to their satisfaction with you as an employer. In fact, 72 percent of employees say a benefits package offering is extremely or very important to their job satisfaction.4

Quality employees create more value for companies. You have the opportunity to develop younger workers into valuable contributors, directly impacting the health of your business.

More importantly, you have the opportunity to make sure those valuable contributors stay at your company. Sixty-four percent of workers say a benefits package is extremely or very important to their employer loyalty.4 Turnover results in a big hit to your bottom line, so offering products that line up with employee expectations can make the difference in keeping - as well as attracting - quality talent. 

Here are just a few ways you can help your young employees feel financially secure as they begin their careers with your company:

Offer benefits targeting student loan debt

Get straight to the heart of the issue and create a benefits package that offers a clear and direct way to combat student loan debt. Benefits like student loan refinancing or repayment, along with financial education tools, can help younger workers start early in paying down debt, managing expenses and forecasting needs.

Emphasize benefits that minimize financial risk

Outside of the benefits mentioned above, there are numerous others you may have already implemented, but can communicate in a way that illustrates their impact on financial wellness.

For instance, telehealth helps employees conveniently connect with a medical professional without the costs associated with in-person visits. Highlighting voluntary benefits like accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance helps employees cost-effectively reduce their risk exposure. Lastly, 401(k) incentives can help employees start saving immediately for retirement.

Put the “fit” in benefits.

When employees aren’t matched to the right benefits, it can lead to cases of either wasting their own money on benefits they don’t need or, even worse, being left unprotected against costly medical events, creating even worse financial stress.

With benefits technology that combines data analytics, decision support and content management tools, you can reach the plan fit trifecta.

  • Data analytics to provide deeper insights into your workforce and their needs, leading to the right mix of benefit offerings.
  • Decision-support tools to incorporate claims data into the enrollment experience so employees can find the best match plan right when they are making the decision.
  • Content management tools to complete a well-rounded strategy of communicating to employees in a way that will resonate.  

Appeal to younger workers with mobile access and communication.

Mobile devices are integral to our daily lives. Younger members of the workforce don’t know what life was like before mobile devices (if you didn't already feel old). Reaching these digital natives means thinking mobile first in your benefits strategy with on-demand access to benefits through a mobile app, and communicating through text and push notifications.

What’s next?

Don’t let your employees drown in student loan debt. Learn more about our Benefit Catalog offerings or request a demo


Forbes: Here's Where the Jobs Will be in 2021
2 Student Loan Hero: A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2021
3 CNN, March 2021
4 Aflac Workforces Report