office perk makes Bay Area more affordable

April 30, 2018

PUBLISHED BY Marisa Kendall

SOURCE The Mercury News

Sexy office perks like free food, gym classes and tropical retreats are so last year. These days, a growing number of companies are offering employees a more practical incentive — helping them pay off their student loans.

San Mateo-based Coupa Software this year rolled out a new program that contributes $50 a month toward eligible employees’ student debt, and other local companies including Nvidia, Chegg and Hewlett-Packard have similar perks. It’s a service in high demand as Americans owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and paying down those loans — especially in the pricey Bay Area — can make it difficult to afford rent or to buy a home.

“You can’t imagine saving for a house,” said Scott Thompson, CEO at San Mateo-based student loan repayment startup “Forget saving for retirement, if you’re struggling on a daily basis with paying off the debt.”

Many companies already contribute money to their employees’ 401(k) plans, but student debt — not future retirement — is often a more pressing issue for today’s young workers.’s platform, launched about three years ago, helps companies figure out how much student debt their employees have, set up loan-repayment plans and facilitate the payments. It announced a deal in February with Coupa Software, and so far, 62 out of Coupa’s 475 U.S. employees have signed up.

Justin Stern, a 25-year-old financial analyst at Coupa, expects the new program will help him pay off his debt up to two years faster. Stern pays about $250 a month toward his student loans, on top of the $2,200 he pays monthly for the 500-square-foot apartment he shares with his girlfriend in San Mateo. The student loan payment has a major impact on his finances, Stern said.

“It definitely is another expense that is hindering moving forward on any other financial goals — buying a house, getting a new car,” he said.

Stern isn’t alone. According to a national renter survey conducted by Apartment List, recent college graduates without debt will spend eight years saving for a 20 percent down payment on a condo — but those saddled with student debt will take 12 years.

The situation is even more daunting in the Bay Area. A smaller Apartment List survey of young renters in the San Francisco metro area — including Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties — found recent college grads with no debt will spend 12 years saving for a home. Recent college grads with debt will spend 27 years.

“Even for college grads without debt, they’re still in a pretty tough spot,” said Apartment List housing economist Chris Salviati. “And then adding student loans on top of that really makes it an untenable position for a lot of these Millennials.”

Read the full article on The Mercury News here.