While the presidential candidates tout various proposals to relieve the student loan crisis, a handful of employers are offering ways to ease the problem now.
Natixis Global Asset Management on Tuesday became the latest company to pledge to help its workers pay off their student loans. Natixis will give employees $10,000 in total toward their college debt, with $5,000 after their five-year work anniversary and then $1,000 annually for five more years.
An October survey from Natixis showed that 23 percent of Americans don’t participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plans because they need to pay off student loans.
"We decided it was time we put our money where our mouth is, and make sure our own people are on sound financial footing,” Tracey Flaherty, the senior vice president of retirement strategies at Natixis, told CNNMoney.
The move follows similar programs that have come out this year. In April, education company Chegg, introduced a college loan reduction program for its full-time employees. Online food ordering company ChowNow offers a student loan matching program up to $500 a year through Tuition.io.
The most influential company to get in the game is powerhouse accounting firm PwC, which is giving workers up to $1,200 per year to put toward their loans. PwC is the first client of startup Gradifi, which says that it has 100 other large companies interested in a similar service.
While making headlines, student loan benefits are far from common. Just 3 percent of companies offer the benefit, and less than a percent plan to introduce it in the next year, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.
Still, it’s a perk many Americans could use. Student debt is at a record $1.2 trillion, more than what consumers owe on credit cards or auto loans. Some surveys show that a majority of Millennials may be pushing off major life milestones like marriage and home ownership because of student debt.
Last year, almost seven in 10 new graduates had student loans, with an average debt of $28,950, according to an analysis by the Institute for Student Access and Success.
Student debt is affecting Americans at all income levels, with the rate of borrowing among affluent households over the past two decades increasing far more quickly than the rate among lower-income borrowers.