Considering employer student loan repayments as a benefit? Here are seven steps you can take to help you implement a student loan repayments benefit:
For a handy 1-pager on how to implement a tax-free student loan repayments benefit with Highway, download our free toolkit.
Like with many business initiatives, a great place to start with the implementation process is to be clear on what your company’s high level talent goals are. What is your company looking to accomplish in the short-to-medium-to-long term when it comes to your employee population?
Maybe it’s growth. Maybe it’s retention. Maybe it’s developing your culture and brand as an employer or increasing DEI in your firm.
Whatever it is, starting the implementation process with your goals in mind will help you customize and implement a benefit plan that truly meets your company’s and your employees’ needs.
With your talent goals in mind, get a sense of how impactful employer student loan repayments could be for your organization by gaining a rough understanding of how many of your current and prospective employees have student debt.
A safe estimate to start with is ~30% since roughly ⅓ of working Americans have some amount of student debt, but this fraction could go up or down depending on the demographics of your existing and target employee population.
What’s the average age of your employee population? Average education level? Most common majors? What types of institutions did your employees graduate from? All of these factors play into how many employees have student debt and what the average levels of student debt are within your company.
For instance, if you employ a large number of people with professional degrees (dentists, lawyers, vets, doctors, nurses, etc), you might find the average amount of student debt within your company is much higher than the national average. (Did you know dentistry professionals have the highest average student debt at ~$300K?)
Our student loan fact sheet has more key facts like this, plus statistics on the current state of student debt in the US that you can use to help with your assessment.
If a back-of-the-envelope calculation isn’t enough, talk to our team–we can help you find out precisely how many employees in your organization have student debt.
Once you think an employer student loans repayments benefit could be right for your company, start thinking about your contribution amount per enrolled employee.
Many companies tend to offer $100 or $437.50 per month (the maximum tax-free amount) but even $50 per employee per month can make a big difference. With the average minimum monthly payment for student loans hovering around ~$400 each month, a small amount like $50 can make up a meaningful percentage of an employee’s monthly payment and alleviate a significant amount of financial stress.
With an idea of your contribution per enrollee and the benefit’s utilization rate, you can estimate your ballpark budget with our benefit cost calculator.
(If you currently offer a tuition assistance benefit, you can extend your existing plan to also offer employer student loan repayments. Here’s how).
Want to offer different contribution amounts based on tenure or other eligibility requirements? No problem! That brings us to…
As you get ready to finalize your benefit plan, now’s the time to think through other plan customization options.
Want to promote retention with your contributions benefit? Looking for ways to keep your benefit sustainable and cost-effective? Both are possible with custom rules.
Tenure-based plan tiers (i.e. contributions amounts that scale with tenure) are one of the most popular plan customizations we see at Highway.
It’s even possible to have a targeted impact on a specific segment of employees with custom eligibility criteria. For more ideas, checkout this post on popular ways to customize your benefit plan.
After you’ve determined your plan rules and contribution amounts, you’ll need to create a formal educational assistance benefit plan in order to start offering a student loan assistance benefit. You must have a written benefit plan in order to make tax-compliant and tax-free contributions to your employees’ student loans.
You must have a written benefit plan in order to make tax-complaint and tax-free contributions to your employees’ student loans.
Not only can Highway help you set up your benefit in a tax-compliant manner, but our turnkey platform also makes administering your student loan repayment benefit virtually effortless.
We know that you and your benefits team are too busy to take on administering another program (even one as impactful as employer student loan repayments benefit); that’s why our platform takes care of everything from loan verification to eligibility checks to contribution payments for you.
When your benefit has been set up, it’s time to publicize the benefit internally to your employees.
Announce the benefit however you’d like–with an email, a slack message, a post on your company intranet, printed flyers, etc–just be sure to give your eligible employees a reasonable amount of time between the announcement and the official launch date to enroll in your new student loan repayments benefit.
On the designated day, launch your new employer student loan repayments benefit!
While some companies may prefer to roll out new benefits during their open enrollment period, you don’t actually need to wait until open enrollment to launch your employer student loan repayments benefit (unless you want to of course).
By implementing an employer student loan assistance benefit off cycle, you can start positively impacting your employees’ financial, emotional, and mental well-being sooner.
Whether you’re just starting the evaluation process and hoping to learn more about what a student loan assistance benefit is or have decided to implement this benefit, the Highway team can help. Talk to our team today to get started.