The student loan crisis continues to escalate. According to the Center for American Progress, roughly 43 million adult Americans (one-sixth of the U.S. population older than age 18) currently carry a federal student loan and owe $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt. There is also an estimated $119 billion in student loan debt from private sources that are not backed by the government. That equates to one-third of all adults ages 25 to 34 are saddled with student loan debt.
If you think the student loan crisis is only affecting younger generations, think again. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that $86 billion in student loan debt is owed by workers over 60 years of age, and some have even resorted to having their Social Security benefits garnished.
American workers need options to help them handle this financial burden, and employers are in a position to provide assistance. This survey found that half of U.S. workers prefer student loan repayment benefits over extra paid time off. In addition, according to American Student Assistance, 86% of millennials say they would stay with an employer for at least five years if a student loan relief benefit was offered.
And people want to pay off their student loan debt. Based on an assessment of members participating in FinFit’s financial wellness program, 13% of them identified “pay down student loan debt” as a financial goal in the next 12 months.
Many financial wellness programs include student loan debt services, which enable employers to offer services to help employees lower payments, extend terms and in some cases, even cut the overall debt owed. A solution to get employees out of the cycle of debt solves part of the problem, but the solution must be coupled with financial education resources to ensure individuals have the knowledge to continue down the path toward financial stability. Some financial wellness programs may even offer financial coaching where employees can get recommendations and suggestions on how to best handle their financial challenges, like student loan debt.