The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Los Angeles. File photo

Los Angeles County will look at how it can help its employees pay off their student loans or even buy up student debt as a hiring incentive and a way to retain its workers.

The LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with an analysis of how the county might be able to alleviate student loan debts for its employees Tuesday, weeks after the United States Supreme Court struck down an effort by the Biden administration to cancel up to $20,000 in debt for some borrowers.

Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis authored the motion and said that the rising costs of higher education had contributed to some households having to put off things like buying a home, having kids or sending their own kids to college as they repay their own student loans.

The county could help pay off county employee loans in the future through a matching contribution program or by purchasing debt for prospective employees as an incentive to help hire new workers.

“This motion seeks to once again fill the holes in the safety net the Supreme Court has torn open,” Horvath said Tuesday.

Solis noted that the cost of higher education has nearly tripled over the past few decades, but income has not. She pointed to a report that said that Black students have more than $25,000 more debt on average than White college graduates, adding that student debt was affecting communities of color.

Severe inflation has only compounded these issues for borrowers, Solis said.

As the county begins to look at what it can provide internally for employees with student debt, it will also launch awareness campaigns for alternate measures the Biden administration is seeking out to help students with debt.

A July 18 virtual hearing will allow people to send in comments for a new program that could provide alternate paths to debt relief and the new SAVE Plan, which the Biden administration enacted after the court’s ruling.

The SAVE Plan could eliminate monthly payments for the lowest-income borrowers and cut others’ by about half. The program is expected to be fully in place by July 2024, and the county is expected to include both in its awareness campaign also authorized by Tuesday’s vote.

A report back on whether the county is able to help pay back student debt for its employees is expected to be presented to the full board within the next 90 days.

California wants more college students to graduate debt-free. How’s it going so far?

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.