Today, we live in a world that runs on a complex system of credit and debt—a veritable maze of sovereign debt—corporate debt—individual debt. And even student loan debt.
American graduates currently owe over $1.3 trillion in student debt, collectively. And the average amount owed by last year’s graduates sits at $35,000 per person. Many of these graduates are challenged with limited repayment terms on their original student loans—directly translating to their wallets—balancing the expenses of the real world with entry level salaries. Some are already feeling the adverse effects of delinquency in their credit scores, bleeding into a range of future opportunities like purchasing of assets, or even job eligibility.
Student loan debt could become a national crisis
It’s a well-recognized problem that has made a cameo in rumors of forgiveness and conversations in the public forum: presidential debates, the current federal government, large and small educational institutions, and even now—employers.
Employers, in recognizing that millennials are both burdened with student loan debt and workforce-ready, have begun to address this feared crisis through loan paydown programs. It’s a benefit focused on an immediate need for newly grads, compared to more future-facing, traditional incentives like 401(k)s. In partnership with financial institutions and other vendors, roughly 3% of companies have already started to offer these solutions. And while that percentage might indicate a passing trend, one of those companies is PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)—the New York based accounting firm that, at last count, employs a workforce of 208,109-strong.
PwC will give employees the chance to opt-in to an annual $1,200 SLP (Student Loan Paydown) plan. Participation can last up to 6 years, giving employees significant headway on new and established student loan debt. But the program emphasizes the freshest hires—those most at risk of cyclical debt. Ultimately, post-grads can shave off three years from their debt timeline, and reduce their burden by as much as $10,000. What’s more, in tackling their debt immediately and maintaining a solid record (in those crucial post-graduation months) ensures that employees will be well-poised to refinance with favorable interest rates going forward.
It’s time to take action
Many of these emerging programs will be critical in helping millennials tackle their part in the debt economy—and ultimately, navigating out of a daunting and potentially long-term, or damaging, cycle. This is a rising challenge, not faced by previous generations, but one more employers and students are poised to deal with together—a shared burden, that incorporates the best aspects of technical access and market cooperation, replacing traditional perks that have taken a back seat to a mounting issue.