Vacation, Tuition Reimbursement and Higher Salaries Top The List of College Graduates’ Preferred Employee Benefits

Posted By Terri Williams on November 19, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Vacation, Tuition Reimbursement and Higher Salaries Top The List of College Graduates’ Preferred Employee Benefits

While many companies have been lauded for providing flextime, telecommuting options, and on-site gyms, it seems graduating college students are more interested in tuition reimbursement and a casual dress policy. A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reveals the top employee benefits graduating college students want when they accept a new job.

Students were asked to rank their top 5 preferred benefits out of 16 choices. The first table below lists the benefits that received the most 1st place votes and also the benefits that received the most votes overall. The second table lists the benefits with the least amount of 1st place and total votes.

The top 8 preferred benefits of college students entering the workforce are: 

% of 1st place votes % of total votes
More than two weeks of vacation 10.00% 8.30%
Tuition reimbursement for advanced education 9.60% 10.40%
Promised annual salary increase 9.40% 12.50%
Company match for 401(k) 8.50% 11.90%
Casual dress policy 8.10% 6.60%
Dental insurance 7.40% 4.40%
100% employer-paid medical insurance 6.60% 12.00%
Family-friendly benefits 6.40% 6.20%


These are the bottom 8 preferred benefits of college students entering the workforce

% of 1st place votes % of total votes
Bonus/commission plan 6.30% 5.90%
Life insurance 6.20% 5.60%
Onsite-fitness center 5.40% 2.90%
Frequent performance review 5.30% 4.80%
Flextime 4.30% 3.70%
Telecommuting option 2.70% 1.80%
Employee assistance (counseling) program 2.50% 2.10%
On-site day care facilities 1.40% 0.90%


So what are the factors contributing to these responses? GoodCall assembled a team of experts to provide commentary on the survey’s results.

Instant gratification

Graduating students may be living in the here and now, and not thinking about longevity with the firm or the next phase of life, according to Melissa Lamson, CEO of Lamson Consulting in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Younger generations are not thinking life-long, nor about children or family-career balance as issues, yet,” explains Lamson. Instead, she says that work-life is important, as well as having their immediate bills paid so they can live more comfortably.

And Nancy S. Ahlrichs, Business Development Consultant at Indianapolis-based FlashPoint, adds, “The fitness center, employee counseling program, and life insurance are benefits that these students either have covered for themselves or do not understand that they might need in the future. Even if they do understand, there are other things they want more.”

Financial security

Ahlrichs says many of these college students have older siblings who were hit hard by the recession and were unemployed and living in their parents’ homes. “So these students are determined to handle their careers and living arrangements differently. Many changed majors to increase the odds of being employed after graduation; others changed schools to keep education costs low. And they want to be out of their parents’ houses as soon as possible,” says Ahlrichs.

And they also understand how an illness can negatively impact their health and their finances. Magda Walczak, CMO of The Search Party in Chicago says, “This generation has grown up in a world where the issues with healthcare systems have been brought to light and a new employee won’t be happy without full coverage.”

Student debt avoidance

Record-high student loan debt may also influence the top choices for benefits. Brandon Shockley, Qualitative Researcher at Philadelphia-based Plannerzone, says, “Graduating seniors are saddled with student loan debt, and this is one of the factors driving interest in tuition reimbursement.”

Cultural influences

Undoubtedly, culture determines preferences across the board. According to Matt Straz, founder & CEO of Namely in New York City, “It’s understandable that those just entering the working world would look for jobs that offer casual dress codes and lengthy vacations, as that seems to be where the workplace is headed.”

And Walczak says the casual dress policy seems to be more important to the youngest generation entering the workforce. “I think this comes from the freedom that technology provides. The new generation doesn’t see business clothing as a sign of how skilled you are or as a sign of success,” says Walczak.  Instead, she says that most likely their ideas regarding dress codes have been inspired by the tech icons they’ve grown up idolizing.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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