Student loan help at work could become as common as 401(k)s

Student loan assistance, which started as rare perk offered by a handful of companies, is finding its way into the mainstream menu of workplace benefits.

This year, Fidelity began to offer businesses a way to contribute to their workers’ education debt. Since then, more than two dozen companies have signed up and it expects that number to double by the year’s finish.

“This is going to grow rapidly over time,” said Asha Srikantiah, vice president of workplace emerging products at Fidelity. “We’re seeing so many more people who have debt and who are overwhelmed by that debt.”

Indeed, 7 in 10 college graduates have student loan debt. The average person leaves school $30,000 in arrears, while nearly 20 percent owe more than $100,000. Americans are now more burdened by education loans than they are by credit card or auto debt.

And nearly 90 percent of young workers say they’d commit to an employer for at least five years if they were offered help with their student loans, according to a study by the nonprofit, American Student Assistance.

“This is certainly emerging as a new and very important benefit,” said David Pratt, a professor at Albany Law School who studies employee benefits.

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