The graduating class of 2016 left their universities with diplomas in hand and, on average, nearly $40,000 in student loans, according to U.S. News. With that type of debt looming, it makes sense that most graduates would want to put any extra income they have toward paying down loans. But, the 2017 Yello Collegiate Study: Undergraduate Expectations*, found the 2017 college graduating class is prioritizing 401k matching above student loan repayments.

Provide Investment Opportunities

The 2017 Yello Collegiate Study surveyed current college students to find out which financial benefit would most positively impact their decision to accept a job. Nearly half said 401k matching would have more of an impact than student loan assistance or ongoing learning. When a candidate has multiple offers, your company’s 401k match could be the benefit that sways their decision. Create collateral highlighting the enrollment process and provide tools like a 401k calculator to show ways employees can maximize this benefit. List your 401k as a benefit on your company Glassdoor profile, provide an overview of the plan and encourage employees to leave reviews specific to the 401k. Even if there is a waiting period for employees to participate in your plan, make sure new hires understand the benefit and how to enroll, so they are ready to sign up on day one of eligibility.

Support Additional Education

If your company doesn’t offer a 401k match, another benefit that may appeal to college students are ongoing learning stipends. 31 percent of respondents say continuing education benefits might drive them to join a particular company. This benefit does not have to be a traditional education stipend; consider sponsoring employee membership in professional organizations, paying for employees to attend industry conferences, providing a ‘book budget’ for employees to buy relevant publications and making time for independent learning. Educational benefits can attract candidates who are motivated to continue gaining new skills, helping to build your company’s next generation of leaders.

Explore New Benefits

While traditional education stipends are offered to employees to continue their future learning, some organizations are considering student loan assistance as a strategy to attract and retain top employees. The 2017 Yello Collegiate Study found that student loan repayments appealed to 23 percent of respondents as a reason to join the organization. The number of students who seek this benefit may change over time as it becomes more widely offered by employers; in 2016, a SHRM report found only 4 percent of companies offered student loan assistance. Get a head start by familiarizing yourself with repayment programs now and exploring providers like Peanut Butter, Student Loan Genius, or Gradifi. Consider polling entry-level hires yearly to find out what financial benefits are most important to them, to determine if your company should modify its benefits package. By monitoring trends, companies can continue to stand out among candidates and invest in employees in the ways they find most valuable.

* In September 2016, Yello surveyed 1,776 collegiate students on their post-graduation, professional aspirations. All individuals anticipated graduating on or before December 31, 2017 or, on or after January 1, 2018. These participants entered our database as a result of a career fair they attended at a university or diversity career fair.