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Popular Job Perk: Helping To Pay Off Student Loan Debt

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's one of the most sought after job perks, and it's not a 401 (k) or vacation time.

A growing list of companies, including some in Chicago, are offering to help potential employees pay off their college debt.

CBS 2's Jim Williams has the story.

Common ground for some employees of Price Waterhouse Coopers: youth and student debt.

"Parents were super helpful as much as they could but student debt is unavoidable," said Jake Galleger, a graduate from Iowa State. "Coming out of college it's something you expect to have."

Along with a salary, 401 (k) and the prestige of working for a powerhouse firm, recent college graduates are getting help with their student loan debt from PWC.

"It's one more box you can check off of a benefit that PWC offers that most other companies aren't offering," Galleger said.

Student debt in the United States is staggering. It's 1.5 trillion dollars now and according to the Federal Reserve, it's second only to mortgage debt.

Seven out of 10 recent college graduates are paying student loans. The average amount: $37,000.

"It's a big problem not only for our employees but a big problem in society and PWC wanted to step up and make a difference here," said Jim Kolar of Price Waterhouse Coopers.

And it makes companies more attractive when unemployment is under four percent and workers have a greater choice of jobs.

"Those who don't come out of school with student debt also are very appreciative that we're doing this because they're well aware their peers and others who have this substantial loads," added Kolar.

Price Waterhouse Coopers offers $1,200 a year in student loan payments for up to six years.

"It was one more benefit I saw coming in," said Galleger.

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only four percent of U.S. companies are offering employees help with student loan debt but the number is growing.

One of the other prominent Chicago companies is Abbott Laboratories.

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