Question - How to negotiate student loan repayment?

Anonymous Question:

“How would you negotiate with a prospective employer to add for student loan reimbursement? I'd imagine there would be tax incentives for a company to do this. Thanks.”

My Answer:

The time to discuss and negotiate total compensation (which could include student loan repayment) comes as soon as you receive the first verbal job offer. I wouldn’t bring it up until you already know the employer wants to hire you and has put together that first offer.

Find out if this prospective employer has an educational reimbursement program. If so, it may be an easier request than if the company does not. You’re essentially asking for that to be applied retroactively to your student loans instead of future college expenses.

Nearly 9 in 10 companies offer education reimbursement… and the median reimbursement maximum is $7,500 per year. (source)

You’ll always be in a stronger negotiation position when you interview multiple companies and have multiple offers to consider. That makes it easier for you to put the companies in a situation where they are competing with each other to land you.

So, you could add that loan repayment benefit to your complete counter offer, just as you might negotiate to add a signing bonus or more stock options. For example, a similar situation arises when an employee will be leaving stock options “on the table” if they quit a job to take a new offer. In that case, sometimes, a prospective employer will offer to “buy out” that stock to sweeten the deal and make it easier for the employee to walk away from those stock options.

I would say that your chances are pretty good if what you’d be asking is in the ballpark of a signing bonus and you are such a desirable candidate that they’re willing to improve the offer to land you. It never hurts to ask!

You have nothing to lose as long as you negotiate professionally and respectfully (e.g., not making a demand). Just be prepared with a gracious response if they decline your counter or come back with another counter. You have to decide if you’ll take it or walk away.

Put together your complete counter offer and respond with something like:
“Thank you for the offer. I appreciate it, and I’m excited about joining you! I was wondering if you could come up a bit on the base and throw in a bonus to help me repay my student loans? If the offer looked like this (list the complete counter offer elements), I would sign the letter tomorrow.”