Ahhhh, the smell of fresh folders, pencils sharpened to perfection and the crack of that first marker opening . . . Oh, is it just me that gets excited about new school supplies?! August means back-to-school preparations for many—and getting into the education mindset isn’t just for those heading back into the traditional classroom. 

This month is the perfect time for employers to think about “back-to-school” benefit offerings that can keep their workforce engaged and motivated—especially as the current challenges of the labor market make attracting and retaining employees more important than ever.

Here is a closer look at three major education-focused benefits and resources for employers:

  1. Student Loan Repayment

The average recent graduate borrowed $30,000 to obtain a bachelor’s degree. According to a study from American Student Assistance (ASA), 59% of young workers indicate that paying off their student loans is a higher priority than saving for retirement, and 86% of students would commit to their employer for five years or more if they offered an employer-sponsored student loan repayment program. In the U.S., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows employers to make tax-free annual contributions of up to $5,250 per employee toward eligible education debt.

More considerations and resources on student loan repayment benefits can be found in Foundation blog posts “Student Loan Repayment Options: The Key to Attracting and Retaining Employees” and “A Deep Dive Into Student Loan Repayment Assistance Benefits” as well as a recent webcast.

2. Tuition Reimbursement

Sixty-three percent of employers offer tuition assistance/reimbursement, according to a 2019 Foundation survey. This benefit has long been considered a strong way to attract new and retain existing talent and to increase worker productivity, loyalty and satisfaction.

Employer cost and management of tuition reimbursement programs can be a challenge. Best practices for these programs are outlined in the Foundation blog post “10 Ways to Ensure That Tuition Reimbursement Doesn’t Break the Bank”. Tactics include establishing a fixed annual amount for reimbursement, requiring a minimum grade for reimbursement and setting a payback provision for workers who leave within a short time following tuition reimbursement.

3. Continuing Education/Professional Development

The start of the traditional school year is an ideal time to revisit continuing education goals/requirements as well as a chance to use up those professional development budgets before the end of the calendar year.

Investing in employee training increases retention and job satisfaction. Additionally, when current and prospective employees know they can evolve with a company because their education and development goals are supported, the result is enhanced employee well-being and loyalty.

The International Foundation offers a host of education opportunities for benefits professionals, from one- to three-hour online learning courses, virtual workshops and specialty conferences to the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) designation.

This August, in between picking out that perfect box of crayons and marveling at the different uses for glue sticks, take the back-to-school approach to assess your organization’s education benefit priorities.

Cara McMullin
Communications Specialist

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Cara McMullin

Communications Specialist Favorite Foundation Product: Word on Benefits Blog Benefits-related Topics That Interest Her Most: Equity and Inclusion, Workplace Wellness Personal Insight: Cara loves live theatre, concerts, and festivals – lots of fantastic options in Wisconsin. In her spare time, you can also find her reading, streaming TV/movies and spending time with family and friends at local restaurants, outdoor concerts, and farmers markets.

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