Recent headlines have declared that student loan assistance is one of the hottest new trends in the workplace.
But in the more than five years since major companies like Aetna and Fidelity began helping employees pay off student debt, the feature is still only available in an estimated 8% of businesses, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey.
What if you work at the other 92%? Like any part of a compensation (or life) package, it can help to simply ask for what you want. The result may have a greater impact than you think.
“We have employers telling us that one person came and talked to them,” says Romy Parczyk, CEO of Vault, which operates educational assistance benefits for 1,500 customers. “This raised interest [the whole company]. “
Here’s how to set your company on fire.
Gather supporting evidence
If your company employs a large proportion of workers with a four-year degree, chances are that many of your co-workers are dealing with debt. Seven out of 10 college students are now borrowing to pay for their degree, and Student debt stretches back generations8.7 million student loan borrowers are over 50 years old.
You can take your research a step further by researching industry-specific borrowing statistics, or even ask your employer to consider employee surveys to gauge their debt levels.
If your company highlights its goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion, says Parzyk, be sure to point to statements that show how to do so. Student debt disproportionately affects blacks and Latino borrowers, and how women own 60% of all student debt.
At PwC, one of the first major companies to announce a student loan repayment program in 2015, the company leaders Say That 62% of eligible black employees and 52% of qualified Latino employees share benefits, in greater proportions than eligible white or Asian employees. The consulting firm, which pays out up to $1,200 annually in student loans to eligible employees, had more than 16,000 workers signed up for the benefit during its first five years of existence.
Sell it as a core benefit – not just an employee benefit
Once you have demonstrated that student loan assistance will help employees, it is time to prove that it is a good business decision as well.
It’s widely accepted that benefits are an essential part of employee recruitment and retention, so focus on them, says Virginia Adams, senior human resources advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management.
About a quarter of the employees surveyed improved recently survey They said they would quit their current job for a job that offered them student loan assistance. The share jumps almost in half when looking at Generation Z workers alone.
In the case of Nebraska Medicine, a chain of hospitals with locations in the Omaha area, providing student loan assistance to bedside nurses resulted in a 55% increase in retention and saved $5 million in company sales costs, According to Prudential, which partnered with the hospital for utility design.
Even if you can’t find hard numbers, you can collect information about employers hiring in your area or industry who actually offer this feature. (You’ll likely make a healthy list just by looking at your competitors’ job pages, Adams says.)
Finally, make sure your employer (and HR department) is up-to-date with a beneficial tax policy: Student loan assistance is tax deductible For both employer and employee. The tax-exempt status continues until 2025.
Go behind your boss’s back
Well, we’re dealing with cheeks there. But if you don’t feel comfortable approaching someone who has the ability to offer this feature, try emailing one of the benefits providers that work in the field, such as Tuition.io, Gradifi, Goodly, and Bright Horizons EdAssist.
Although Vault does sell the business, Parzick says it’s not uncommon for people to email her company and say, “Hey, how do I get this feature at my workplace? Can you help?”
After receiving one of these emails, Vault sales reps contact the company in question, informing the company of an (unnamed) employee that has been reached. Her team found that this type of cold communication is more likely to result in call backs than call without the employee’s request.
“This is an interesting indicator of how much employers value what their employees are looking for,” she says.
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