Natural Light made a statement earlier this month when they unveiled their “Da Vinci of Debt” in Grand Central Station. They have described it as “the world’s most expensive piece of art” because it is made up of 2,600 real college diplomas of graduates across the United States. Each one of those diplomas is valued at just over $180,000, the average cost of a four-year college education. Multiply that by 2,600, and you get $468,000,000, which makes for one expensive exhibition.

Natural Light’s Da Vinci of Debt

We thought this was an interesting move for the classic “natty light” which has a reputation for being a cheap beer for college students to drink. After some research, we found out the motivation behind this exhibition was to inspire change around America’s student debt crisis and promote the Natty College Debt Relief Program. On their website, Natural Light says “college should be filled with fun, not debt” so they are awarding $1 million worth of grants to help grads pay off their loans, which is pretty on brand for the beer of college students. 

At KSA, we have a group of kids who are dealing with this issue firsthand and made us start to think about how this affects us, and agencies like KSA. 

Our first thought was recent college grads would be looking for higher salaries because they know they owe so much money. This tracks for a lot of students and is keeping them from their dream jobs. CNBC says, “Student loans are having a perverse effect: The very debt that’s taken on to allow someone to pursue their ambitions can later morph into a burden that requires them to ditch those plans and grab any job that will just pay the bills.”

Now for big corporations with the funds to offer higher salaries, this isn’t a problem and might just create a more competitive applicant pool for them. However, smaller businesses don’t have the same capabilities, and most often can’t match the salaries.

Not only can these big corporations offer higher salaries, but also more benefits. According to a survey done by American Student Assistance, “86% of employees would commit to a company for five years if the employer helped pay back their student loans.” Options for paying back student loans are becoming more important to job seekers because financial stability is prioritized by the younger generation. Smaller businesses can’t make promises like that to their applicants. 

Another threat is losing new employees to better offers after only a short period of time. We all know the younger generation is more apt to jump from job to job. Research by Robert Half, “suggests that 64% of workers favor switching to a new company every few years, especially if it comes with a pay increase and helps them advance in the workforce.” 

However, the desire for higher salaries isn’t a universal response to the college debt crisis. According to Scholarship America, “grads often settle for lower-paying, lower-skill jobs so they can start paying their loan bills right away.” Martin Gervais of the University of Georgia and Nicolas L. Ziebarth of Auburn University found that for every additional $2,500 in loans, there is a nearly 5% lower chance that individual will be employed in a job closely related to their major.

It is important to note that outside of hiring practices, the stress of college debt still affects our work. There are other benefits small businesses provide that we have found help us and don’t have a price tag associated with it. Working in a place like KSA where we have a culture of support and feel comfortable can be one of the biggest benefits of all. Providing employees with benefits that are going to help mental and physical wellness can be just as important as financial support.

This makes us think, what is more important? A big company that can offer a high salary and benefits or a smaller business that offers an awesome culture and opportunities to learn? For a lot of people, they feel like they don’t get to choose because of the pressure their loans are putting on them. This truly is a crisis that needs to be tackled so college grads can start making decisions based on their values and not the dollar amount tied to their college education.

Video submissions for the Natty College Debt Relief Program are due by March 21, 2021. For full rules and more information on the program, visit