As more U.S. companies help their employees pay off student loans, some lenders are sensing an opportunity to reel in new, potentially high-net-worth customers.

Student loan assistance is emerging as today's hot new employee benefit, in the same way the 401(k) did a few decades ago. These payments, of up to $2,000 annually, are increasingly seen as a way for firms to attract and retain employees who are straining under the weight of education debt.

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