Today in the United States, nearly every American citizen has a glaring characteristic among them: indebtedness.
For some, this is due to an upside-down mortgage, or an expensive car they couldn't quite afford, or paying for medical bills. But for so many, the irreversible debt they are facing is student loan debt.
The average amount of funds a student borrows per year in a four-year degree is at an upwards of $28,000 per year, and this only accounts for their undergraduate career. Student Loan Debt has become its own brand of an epidemic, leading to $1.5 trillion in debt in 2019. With more than 44 million students requesting higher totals of student loans, that places more than 70% of students attending four-year colleges in significant debt upon graduating.
If you are struggling to afford your student loan payments each month, or you can't stand to look at your long future of paying ahead of you, you are anything but alone.
But one company is aiming to improve the student loan debt landscape, if with considerable consequences.
PTO Exchange is a platform designed for employers to give their employees the opportunity to exchange the monetary value of their vacation days for retirement or charity. However, the company announced on Thursday that they will be expanding their options to also include student loan debt payments.
That's right: As of Thursday, you can exchange the monetary value of your vacation days to make additional payments on your student loans.
According to Jillian Berman at MarketWatch, more companies have been offering student loan reimbursements in recent years, as a means to attract new, younger employees fresh out of college. However, PTO Exchange makes this an even more attractive offer for potential employees by using funds that are already set aside in the company's budget for vacation days.
This development greatly reflects the growing epidemic that is student loan debt, making some workers desperate enough to exchange their hard-earned, and much-needed, vacation hours for additional student loan payments.
With mental health concerns also on the rise in the United States, it is of immense importance that workers take the time needed to care for themselves. But with the implementation of this new exchange, some will inevitably feel pressured to take the offer to improve their debt, thus taking less time for their health and happiness outside of work.
Since Thursday, the conversation has slowly grown across Twitter, with the recurring question, "Would you trade your vacation days to pay off your student loans?"
Some followers are open about their desperation to crawl out of the financial holes they find themselves in, and how they can see themselves choosing the exchange as the lesser of two evils.
Others are reflecting on the current state of our financial system, one that would take already-limited vacation days in exchange for debt accrued originally to better the system via furthered education.
While it's clear that improved financial standing and less debt can decrease stress and improve the human condition, how this financial standing is acquired remains in question. Though this program offers the opportunity to exchange debt dollars for vacation days, it begs the question of whether an improved debt is enough to outweigh the costs to mental health and personal days.
James Kvaal, President of the Institute for College Access and Success, stated, "While student loans can be an excellent investment, there is a crisis among the millions of students who struggle to repay their loans. We need to invest more in student aid and in colleges to reduce students' need to borrow, and make their loans easier to repay."
While PTO Exchange's platform may be a step in the right direction, Kvaal is correct in stating that improved resources for access to education and repayment of loans are needed. While some workers will see the exchange program as an easy decision, many will struggle with personal and mental health concerns, as well as much-needed time for themselves and their families.
With new opportunities to access education and improved student loan repayment plans, workers may have the opportunity to take their vacation days, or go back to exchanging some of their vacation days for their retirement or favorite charities.