In Brief:

A 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30, 2023 was one of the most eagerly awaited rulings in recent history—at least by the country’s 43.6 million federal student loan borrowers.1 Ultimately, the court ruled that the Administration lacked the authority to forgive what amounted to $430 billion in student loan principal.2 With the ruling, student loan repayment went back on the calendar, with interest accrual beginning September 1 and payments officially resuming October 1, 2023.



What Repayment Means for Employees with Student Loan Debt

After a payment pause went into effect on March 27, 2020, and was extended multiple times into the fall of 2023, federal student loan borrowers were not required to make payments for well over three years. During that time, interest rates, housing prices, and the cost of many household goods rose substantially. Depending on your source, average student loan payments are estimated to be $200 to $400 a month.3

Employees in their mid-20s are now experiencing life with student loan payments for the first time.

Thirty-somethings may have gotten married, bought houses, started families, and taken on more debt.

Middle-aged borrowers may be feeling the crunch to save for retirement, facing issues caring for elderly parents, and paying for their children’s education.

The 17% of borrowers who were delinquent before the payment pause may have faced similar or significant hardship with the restart of payments.4

Some borrowers may not have completed their degrees due to health or financial issues and may not be earning the income they anticipated to be able to pay off debt they incurred.

What Repayment Means for Employers

What else has changed since borrowers were in last in repayment? Virtually everything. In March 2020, millions were forced to work remotely, and millions of others became unemployed. Unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic numbers and job growth is back, but the past nearly four years have changed the workplace irrevocably.

Millions of workers quit their jobs to retire, change careers, or care for others at home during the Great Resignation, creating holes in the workforce. The demand by employees to continue working remotely led to gaps in the skilled trades and service industries. Restrictive immigration policies, the cumulative effect of lower birth rates, and retired baby boomers have reduced the available supply of labor in nearly all types of positions. 5

Workplace norms were upended in the past several years, never to return to normal. To compete in today’s labor market, companies have had to rethink their hiring processes. Employers have had to offer new and additional benefits and provide employees with better work-life balance to attract and retain talent. With the shift of power in employees’ favor, wages have gone up, and benefits are available earlier to employees and with a lower number of hours worked to qualify for them.

Employers have also diversified their benefits to address the needs of employees in recent years. As part of 2020’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, employers were allowed to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free each year through 2025 to help employees manage student debt. With these programs, employees can opt to contribute a percentage of their paycheck toward student loans, with a match from their employer.6 An increasing number of employers have taken advantage of the provision to gain a competitive recruitment and retention edge—and to boost employee engagement and job satisfaction—by offering student loan repayment plans. 7

Employers with > 500 Employees


offered student loan repayment in 2021


offered student loan repayment support in 2022


currently offer student loan repayment support

BenefitEd—a joint venture of Nelnet and Ameritas—has been offering Employer-Assisted Student Loan Repayment since 2020. BenefitEd CEO Mike Riordan has seen a dramatic shift in the number of employers offering the program in the past couple of years, with employers struggling to compete for employees or to retain the qualified employees they have in this challenging job market. According to Riordan, “Providing flexible education benefits that offer employees relief with their most pressing financial issues is a simple thing employers can do to boost retention and reduce costly turnover. It not only helps with on-the-job productivity when employees are less stressed, but we’ve seen these benefits give companies a competitive edge in recruiting top educated talent.”

Savvy employees know more employers are offering student loan repayment assistance today than ever before—and if the Great Resignation has shown us anything, it’s that employees are making choices that are in their best interest. Employees who find they’re unable to make their federal student loan payments may be forced to consider all options. That may include leaving to go work for employers that offer the assistance they need.

Employers that want to minimize turnover are helping their employees with repayment by encouraging them to seek assistance from their student loan servicer—Nelnet is one of the largest, servicing loans for over 15 million borrowers. Some employers are directing their employees who are concerned about student loan payments to their servicer or to Federal Student Aid to sign up for the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. This new income-driven repayment (IDR) plan caps payments at 10% of discretionary income and offers other benefits and greater income protections than other IDR plans to help borrowers struggling with monthly payments. Wise employers are also setting up student loan repayment benefits to help them retain employees and remain competitive.


Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer