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Google says it will help employees pay back student loans

The search giant, famous for free food and high salaries, offers another perk for employees.

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Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Richard Nieva/CNET

Google employees are used to lavish perks. In pre-pandemic times, people at Google offices could take advantage of free meals and on-site gyms. On Thursday, the search giant said it will offer another work benefit: a student loan repayment program. 

The company said it will match up to $2,500 per year of payments toward student loans for individual employees. The program will begin in January for the company's full-time employees in the US. The benefit won't apply to Google's army of reportedly more than 130,000 vendors, temps and contractors, which outnumber the company's full time work force or more than 120,000.

Google said the program will expand to full time workers around the globe as the company gathers information on the debt of its employees in other countries. "Given the size of student debt in the US, it's such a crisis," John Casey, Google's head of global benefits, said in an interview. "We wanted to start there."

Americans are saddled with more than $1.5 trillion in student debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Among recent graduates in the US, the average per person is more than $30,000, the US News and World Report says.

Google's policy comes as companies begin using student debt repayment plans to attract new talent and keep current employees happy. Companies including Hulu and Estée Lauder have student loan repayment perks. Other employers, including Abbott Laboratories and Raytheon, are matching student loan payments with 401(k) contributions

The new perk may also be a way for Google to entice employees after a tumultuous few years dealing with culture clashes from rank-and-file workers. Google has faced unrest from its staff related to the search giant's work in China, contracts with the military and handling of sexual misconduct allegations targeted at senior executives.