Will Your Employer Pay Back Your Student Loans?

The economy and the job market look a lot different than they did during the Great Recession. Removed from the days of hundreds of applicants competing for a single hourly position with no benefits, companies are now competing to recruit the best talent.

It's a welcome shift for new grads entering the workforce with massive amounts of student loans to repay. If you're starting your career -- or looking to advance in your career by seeking a new position -- you want to maximize your salary offers. This gives you more power to repay your student loans while still taking care of other financial priorities. (Like, you know, the rising costs of rent, food, and existing.)

But companies are getting better at tuning into the modern employee's needs, and you may want to start looking beyond just salary and examining the benefits a position offers. More and more businesses are helping employees repay their student loans.

Here's what the trend looks like for this new benefit, and how you may be able to take advantage.

Corporations are leading the way in offering student loan help for employees

While most companies don't provide help to employees with student loans, some big names in business recently rolled out assistance as a benefit. This may inspire the 96% of companies that currently do not offer loan reimbursement benefits to start considering it.

Major corporations in finance, including Fidelity, PwC, CommonBond, and the American Bankers Association do offer the benefit. Other companies like Staples are rolling out new programs to give stipends to employees. The office supply chain will start giving workers $100 per month to help with their debt burdens.

If this kind of benefit helps these brands bring in better talent, we could see other businesses follow suit. In fact, Staples has specifically said that their program was designed to recruit new employees to their teams.

Should you look for student loan help as a benefit?

If getting assistance in repaying your student loans ranks high on your priority list, you can research positions with the companies who are getting ready to offer this to their employees. But you need to proceed with caution. Getting help in the form of extra cash and stipends for student loan repayment can come with a cost of its own.

Right now, bonuses or stipends given to employees for student loan repayment aren't tax deductible. That means that $100 a month you might receive if you worked at Staples is taxed along with the rest of your income. So you actually end up with less cash in hand to put toward your loans than the benefit advertises, and how much less depends on your tax bracket.

So should you seek out this benefit? The answer is: It depends a lot on your current situation and your job prospects. A position that offers a better salary with the added bonus of some extra money to dedicate toward student loans might make a transition worthwhile.

But it probably doesn't make much sense to leave a higher-paying job without a student loan reimbursement benefit for a lower-paying job that does offer a stipend for your loans. You'll likely end up with less money in your pocket, since the benefit is taxed.

Hopefully as more companies offer the benefit, it will be easier to find positions that both pay better and provide a more attractive benefits package for younger workers who likely come with student loan debt to repay. But we're just seeing the beginning of the trend now, so we may need to wait a little longer before changes are made either to how this money is taxed or how common the benefit becomes among businesses.

What you can do instead of relying on benefits

You can make a more immediate impact on the cash you have available to repay your loans with if you focus on earning more money in your current job. You can do this by working for, earning, and negotiating a raise. You could also look to move up in the company if another position with more responsibility comes with higher pay.

If you work hourly, you could increase your scheduled hours or volunteer to work overtime or on holidays to increase your paycheck. And you can always look for side hustle opportunities to earn extra money on the side of your day job.

Don't forget to look for small ways to cut costs in your budget, too. While you can only save so much, small changes can add up. If it costs you a total of $5 per day to bring your own lunch from home versus the $10 it costs to purchase lunch at work, you could save $100 per month.

Other small switches like this can help you generate about $100 per month in extra cash flow. It's in your power to come up with a little extra to put toward your student loans, which is good news. You don't need to wait for a company to provide that as a benefit or incentive to get you to work for them.