How many of your employees have student loans?

With 44 million Americans holding student debt, it’s pretty easy to see that the effect of this is widespread. However, when considering whether to offer Student Loan Assistance, most employers’ first question is often, “How many of MY employees have student debt?” While it can seem difficult to determine, there are several different ways to go about finding the answer to that question, and in this post, we’ll cover two different approaches.



Employee Survey

Often times creating a survey is the first method that comes to employers’ minds when trying to assess how many of their employees are likely to hold student debt. While surveying can be effective, there are several considerations that need to be taken into account in order to yield valuable results.

Low Participation

Employees may not be interested in taking a survey for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that employees are skeptical of their anonymity, so they may wish to avoid filling it out. Even when surveys don’t gather information such as name or email, many of them ask other questions about department, level within the organization or other demographic information, leading employees to believe it can be determined who they are. Other employees may be too busy, feel like there is no benefit to them in completing the survey or don’t feel that it applies to them.

Response Bias

Response bias refers to instances where a respondent gives answers that are not truthful, either intentionally or unintentionally. Depending on how the questions are crafted, some employees may be inclined to answer differently than they normally would. For example, an employee may answer in a way they think their employer wants them to, rather than how they truly feel or they may be more likely to select responses that put them in the best light.


There are several ways that you, as an employer, can choose to administer surveys. There are many low-cost platforms that will get the job done. However, many employers will choose to utilize a third-party to facilitate the survey in order to re-emphasize anonymity, as well as to design the questions and analyze the results. Using a third-party, professional service will help to reduce the likelihood of response bias, but can come at quite a high cost.

Just because these considerations should be taken, does not mean that you shouldn’t give a survey to your employees. It just means that truly gaining beneficial and actionable results will presumably be time consuming and costly (i.e., not worth it), which is why we’re highlighting a second approach next.




Demographic Analysis

A demographic analysis uses known characteristics about the overall population determined through public information (in many cases a census) and compares a company’s demographics against the overall population. This method undoubtedly has less downside than surveying employees and can be executed more quickly, however, many employers would argue it is more difficult. As with the first method discussed, there are considerations to take prior to deciding if a demographic analysis makes sense.

Data Availability

Most employers will be able to obtain information necessary from within their HRIS system or employee census file. The success of a demographic analysis relies heavily on the data provided. Not only does accuracy improve the results of this analysis, but the amount of data that is available for the sample population also positively impacts the outcome. If an employer’s records are not up to date or the breadth of information is limited, the demographic analysis has the potential to be skewed. However, if the employer has confidence in the validity of the records then they should feel confident that the numbers derived from this method are going to provide an accurate assumption.

Default Assumptions

Demographics analyses can tend to make default assumptions. For instance, an analysis may assume that 100 percent of a population is college-educated, but several roles at a particular company many not require a college degree, so it is not likely that 100 percent of the population at that specific company has a degree. Therefore, an adjustment would need to be made to the numbers to account for the employees that may not have a degree.


Performing one of these analysis takes some legwork up front to create a model and inputs. It can be difficult if one is not familiar with how to go about it and you run the risk of it being less accurate if it is not done correctly. However, once you have the model created you will be able to use it over time and not have to recreate it if the demographics of your organization change, because you can just change the inputs. 

Fortunately for employers, Peanut Butter has created a proprietary model that allows them to perform a demographic analysis with little effort. Check out our Industries Served pages to find out how many workers in your sector hold student debt, or email our client solutions team and ask for a custom prevalence analysis.