A 401(k) and good health insurance used to be all employers needed to attract and keep talented workers. But student debt has reached a crisis level. Many employees are just as concerned about how they'll pay back their student loans as they are with saving for retirement.
In the past few years, forward-thinking employers have added a new item to their menu of employee benefits to entice these employees: student loan repayment assistance. This program gives employees money to put toward their student loans in addition to their salary.
It's a movement that's gaining traction.
Each company's program has its own requirements and limitations and not all of them share this information publicly, but here's a closer look at what you can expect if you choose an employer that offers student loan repayment assistance.
Companies that pay off student loans
Here are 20 of the top employers that offer student loan repayment assistance to their employees:
- Aetna: Aetna is a health insurance provider that gives its full-time employees up to $2,000 per year for their student loans with a $10,000 lifetime limit. Part-time employees working 20 or more hours per week are eligible for $1,000 per year with a $5,000 lifetime limit. You must have earned your degree within three years of applying to qualify. The company also offers a tuition assistance program to help employees who are currently in school.
- Carhartt: Clothing retailer Carhartt offers qualifying full- and part-time employees $50 per month toward their student loans with a maximum $10,000 lifetime benefit. Nonunion members are eligible for student loan repayment assistance after 30 days of employment while union members must wait until they've worked for the company for 90 days.
- Carvana: Car-buying platform Carvana has partnered with Gradifi, a startup that helps employers set up student loan repayment assistance benefits, to offer their full-time employees $1,000 per year toward their student debt. It doesn't state whether there's a lifetime cap.
- Chegg: This education technology company offers employees with student debt $1,000 per year with no lifetime maximum. Its Equity for Education program gives employees in entry- to manager-level jobs an additional $5,000 annually for student debt. Employees need to be with the company for two years to qualify. Directors and vice presidents are eligible for an additional $3,000 annually under this program. Chegg also offers employees up to $5,250 per year for continuing education.
- CommonBond: CommonBond, a student loan refinancing marketplace, offers employees $100 per month toward their student loans until all of their loans are paid off.
- Estee Lauder: Employees of Estee Lauder and its subsidiaries, including Clinique, MAC Cosmetics, and Origins, are eligible for a $100 monthly student loan repayment benefit. The company caps the lifetime benefit at $10,000.
- Fidelity Investments: Fidelity's Step Ahead Student Loan Assistance Program offers employees who have been with the company for at least six months up to $2,000 per year for their student loans with a maximum $10,000 lifetime benefit.
- Gradifi: Gradifi helps other companies establish student loan repayment employee benefits, so it only makes sense that it would extend this perk to its own employees. It offers $250 per month, up to $10,000 total.
- Honeywell: Honeywell has also partnered with Gradifi to offer up to $10,000 in student loan repayment assistance to qualifying employees. It pays $150 per month.
- Hulu: Employees of the popular streaming service carrying student loan debt can expect to receive $1,200 per year toward their student loans.
- LendEDU: Online loan marketplace LendEDU offers employees $200 per month toward student loan repayment with no maximum cap.
- Live Nation: Entertainment company Live Nation matches employee student loan payments up to $100 per month with a $6,000 lifetime maximum. Employees must be with the company for at least six months to qualify. The company also offers tuition reimbursement for employees interested in continuing their education.
- Natixis Global Asset Management: This company offers employees $1,000 per year in student loan repayment assistance with a maximum lifetime benefit of $10,000.
- Nvidia: Tech company Nvidia offers full- and part-time employees working at least 20 hours per week an impressive $500 per month toward their student loans with a $30,000 lifetime maximum. Employees must work for the company for at least three months before they qualify. It also offers a tuition reimbursement program for employees interested in pursuing further education.
- Peloton: Fitness company Peloton partnered with Gradifi in 2017 to offer its employees $100 per month in student loan repayment assistance. It doesn't appear to have a lifetime cap.
- Penguin Random House: This book publisher offers employees $100 per month in student loan repayment assistance with a maximum lifetime benefit of $9,000. Only full-time employees that have been with the company for at least one year are eligible.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers: Professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) offers employees up to $1,200 per year in student loan repayment assistance with a $10,000 maximum lifetime benefit.
- SoFi: The online lender offers employees up to $200 per month in student loan repayment assistance with no lifetime caps.
- Staples: Staples offers qualifying, high-potential employees $100 per month in student loan repayment assistance for a maximum of 36 months.
- U.S. Government: In addition to its Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), teacher loan forgiveness, and military loan forgiveness programs, the federal government offers employees up to $60,000 in student loan repayment assistance. This is paid in $10,000 increments over six years. Only federal student loans are eligible and you must sign a contract agreeing to work for the government for at least three years.
How do student loan repayment benefits work?
Employers vary in requirements and how they disburse student loan repayment assistance. Most of these benefits are paid monthly, but some employers pay qualifying employees a lump sum annually. Many have a lifetime cap on benefits, which is usually $10,000.
Some companies may require employees to work a certain number of hours or be with the company a certain number of months to qualify for student loan repayment assistance. Others have no such restrictions.
Note that student loan repayment benefits aren't the same as tuition reimbursement, another increasingly common employee benefit. Tuition reimbursement pays for new higher education courses and degree programs that an employee enrolls in while working for a company. It doesn't pay for educational expenses you incurred before you came to work for the company. You may need to get approval from your company before you can claim tuition reimbursement, and your program of study typically must be related to your current job. If you're interested in furthering your education, there are some companies that offer both student loan repayment assistance and tuition reimbursement, but these are rare.
You should also note that money your employer gives you for student loan repayment assistance is taxable, so it'll raise your taxable income for the year. This should come out of your paychecks automatically, so you won't have to worry about it, but you should note that you may not get the full amount your company advertises.
Are student loan repayment benefits worth it?
Student loan repayment benefits can shave months or even years off your student loan repayment term and save you money in the process. But you can't base your decision to take a job on this alone.
If a company offers student loan repayment benefits but pays a much lower salary than you could earn somewhere else, it might not be worth it. You're better off going with the company that's going to pay you more, especially since you'd pay taxes on your student loan repayment benefit anyway.
Consider everything an employer offers, including salary, health insurance, retirement benefits, work-life balance, work environment, and educational benefits when deciding which company is right for you. Keep an eye out for new companies in your field that may offer student loan repayment assistance and consider switching jobs if it makes sense.
If you're considering a company that offers student loan repayment assistance, make sure you understand all the terms. Ask:
- if you must work for the company for a certain number of months or years before you're eligible,
- how much you might get per month or year,
- whether there's a lifetime cap, and
- if there are other requirements you must meet to claim the benefit.
As long as there's a student debt crisis, employers will try to entice employees with student loan repayment assistance. It sounds great on the surface, but you need to make sure it's right for you. A $10,000 benefit might sound too good to pass up, but if you're only getting $100 per month and you don't see yourself remaining with the company for over eight years, it might not be the awesome perk you thought it was.
Weigh all these factors before deciding to apply to a company just because it offers student loan repayment assistance.