Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever before. Statistics show that about 44 million borrowers owe a collective debt of $1.3 trillion, and the class of 2016 just graduated with an average debt of $37,172 — up 6 percent from last year.
Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that many of these graduates with federal loans — 40 percent to be exact — aren’t making payments or are behind on payments. This could have potential implications on the economy as more and more people buy less and less in order to pay off their debts and save for their futures.
Staples, a leading office supplies retailer, is looking to help employees deal with this heaping sum of debt with a new Student Loan Repayment Plan.
“This program shows our commitment to supporting both new and existing associates, and that Staples is investing in good talent,” explains Regis Mulot, executive vice president, global human resources at Staples.
Initially, the program is targeting new-hire sales associates and existing internal candidates who have been identified as high-potential, top performers. Active, full-time U.S. associates with at least one outstanding loan obligation and have obtained, or are in the process of receiving, a degree from an accredited institution will have their loan principal paid at $100 per month for 36 months.
“Staples is always looking at cutting-edge programs and innovative ways to attract and retain associates,” says Mulot. “By offering a student loan repayment benefit, it will help with recruiting, retention, engaging employees and driving loyalty.”
Staples is working with Tuition.io, a platform for employee student loan contributions, to administer the program that Mulot says will be offered to additional groups in the future.
“Our goal is to invest in our associates so they will, in turn, invest in Staples,” notes Mulot. “We recognize that student debt is an important issue for a lot of our associates. We want to make sure they continue to invest in their future with us and not get distracted by the burden of their loans, no matter if they're recent graduates or already have significant work experience.”
Staples isn’t the first company to help its employees pay back student loans — 4 percent of employers offer the benefit. Fidelity Investments pays employees as much as $2,000 a year over the course of five years, and Chegg, which provides online textbooks, tutoring and test preparation, pays $1,000 per year for both federal and private debts.
In addition to Staples’ student loan repayment initiative, the company has launched a series of recruiting efforts to add 1,000 people to its sales force of 74,000 store associates. The include the following:
- in-house headhunters proactively reaching out to current associates and offering them other opportunities within the organization; and
- “Refer a Talent,” a program that encourages associates to refer high-potential outside candidates in order to facilitate bringing them on board even if there isn't a specific open job requisition.
The Student Loan Repayment Plan is an attractive benefit for companies, like Staples, looking to gain new talent.