The Hottest Employer Benefit: Student Loan Repayment

Millennials carry nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. Individually, our median annual income ($38,800) is less than our student debt load ($41,200). Almost 60 percent of us regret the number of loans we took out for school, and more than a third of us say we'd have skipped college altogether if we'd understood the costs.

Worries about debt often affect how we millennials begin our career paths. We have less compunction going after higher-paying work, even if we haven't been at one job very long, if we can pay down our student loans. One startup thinks it can create incentives for millennials to ease up on the job-hopping — by making student debt repayment a major part of employee benefits packages.

FutureFuel.io launched last year to help stem the tide of talent drain (and the overwhelming panic being in debt can inspire). The American Student Association released data earlier this year indicating that millennial workers desperately want help managing their debt. According to ASA research, 79 percent would go to a workplace-provided student debt loan counselor; 93 percent would welcome sign-on bonuses specifically aimed at paying down student debt; and 86 percent would stay at a company for five years or more if their benefits package included loan repayment. FutureFuel.io provides the infrastructure for companies to attract millennial employees with these options.

They're not the only ones out there offering this service, but the numbers are super small — only about 4 percent of employers have some system in place explicitly to help their workers pay down student loans. First Republic Bank and Fidelity Investments are also promoting these services; it may be worth talking to your management and human resources teams about the feature.

Recent research shows that 35 percent of millennials will happily jump ship for higher salaries, and as far as regular benefits packages go, 55 percent would rather their health care costs go to paying down student debt. Eighty percent of those with student debt say they'd prefer to work for a company that helps them pay down their debt through a matching system.

Famously, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were still paying down their own student debt just four years before winning the White House. The system is definitely sick, but it doesn't have to stay that way. If you're an employer, make your workplace valuable for your workers. If you're an employee, ask what else your HR department can do for you.