Interested in training for your team? Click here to learn more

Structuring Student Loan Repayment Benefit Programs: IRS Guidance, Applicable Rules, Key Planning Considerations

CARES Act, Offering Repayment Within 401(k) Plans, and Available Options Outside of Retirement Plans

Note: CPE credit is not offered on this program

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, November 5, 2020

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will guide employee benefits attorneys on structuring student loan repayment benefit programs. The panel will discuss recent legislation, IRS guidance, applicable rules, and important design considerations for employers, including the challenges in offering a student loan repayment program in connection with a 401(k) plan.


In the past, employers generally focused on providing their employees with financial assistance for the costs relating to education programs taken during their employment. Fortunately, employers have had the ability to provide much of that financial assistance to employees on a tax-free basis under a qualified educational assistance program or as a working condition fringe benefit. As the cost of post-secondary education skyrocketed, however, many employers have sought ways to provide their employees instead with relief from their astronomical student loan debt.

While employers look for efficient approaches to provide employee debt relief, the federal government has begun to take action to assist these employers. In 2018, the IRS issued a private letter ruling approving the design of a student loan repayment program under which an employee would be entitled to “matching” contributions under the employer’s 401(k) plan conditioned on that employee making student loan repayments. Interest in the ruling was so widespread that the IRS is considering issuing guidance for all employers and will no longer consider similar ruling requests. Then, earlier this year, the federally-enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allows employers to make tax-free payments of up to $5,250 towards their employees’ qualified educational loans.

Listen as our panel discusses the applicable rules and critical planning considerations for employers considering the implementation of student loan repayment programs. The panel will also discuss the impact of the CARES Act, challenges for multiemployer plans, and other key issues.



  1. Offering student repayment within a 401(k)
  2. Design options outside of a 401(k) plan
  3. Administrative hurdles and pitfalls to avoid
  4. Best practices for employee benefits counsel and plan sponsors


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What options are available to employers to provide student loan repayments as an employee benefit?
  • What is the most recent IRS guidance and federal legislation impacting student loan repayment benefit programs?
  • What are the challenges and structuring considerations for offering a student loan repayment program in connection with a 401(k) plan?
  • What legislation is being considered by Congress?


Bernstein, Susan
Susan B. Niver

Special Counsel
Schulte Roth & Zabel

Ms. Bernstein is special counsel in the New York office of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, where she has been advising...  |  Read More

Levin, Ian
Ian L. Levin

Schulte Roth & Zabel

Mr. Levin practices in the firm’s M&A and Securities Group and Employment and Employee Benefits Group....  |  Read More

Access Anytime, Anywhere

Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

To find out which recorded format will provide the best CLE option, select your state:

CLE On-Demand Video