HRE’s number of the day: student loan benefits

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3: Percentage of employers offering a student loan benefit

Just 3% of employers currently offer a student loan benefit to their employees, according to a new XpertHR poll of 457 U.S. employers of various industries and workforce sizes.

What it means to HR leaders

Student loan benefits have been a rising benefit–often demanded by employees–for the last few years, but XpertHR’s new survey shows little movement on how many employers offer the perk.

“While student loan repayment has been a hot topic in the benefits world for the past few years, employers are clearly not yet sold on the idea,” says Andrew Hellwege, surveys editor at XpertHR. “[Employers] continue to prefer to provide assistance for education sought during employment, rather than for debt incurred before the new hire walked through the door.”

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Related: Employers embrace student loan benefits to help solve employees’ $1.6 trillion problem

Additionally, though student loan benefits have been touted as a smart way to recruit and retain employees in a hot job market, the pandemic is putting financial restraint on many companies, which may be tempering movement.

However, there is hope that the number of employers offering student loan benefits may rise: The coronavirus stimulus package passed in March contains temporary relief for employers that offer student loan benefits. The legislation provides a one-time tax break this year for annual employer contributions of up to $5,250 toward student loan debt for each employee. The tax break may not only help cushion the benefit’s stability during a tough pandemic economy, it may spur other employers to add the benefit, experts say.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.