Thanks to President Biden's March 2021 stimulus legislation, a new tax provision allows businesses to deduct up to $5,250 per employee each year through 2025 to help them pay down their student debt. This certainly sounds like a good benefit - many employees are being crushed under the weight of their student debt.
But there's an even bigger reason beyond the tax benefit. If you're an employer, you - yes, you! - can help contribute to amazing research that's being performed by some of the world's leading institutions of higher learning. Research that has helped solve some of the mysteries of life and may even help you run your business better. What an opportunity!
What kinds of studies will your loan repayments help fund?
Well, there was research recently done by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Australia that found that wearing pajamas while working from home did not lower productivity, and what a relief that is. But researchers there did advise employees to "get changed before beginning work in the morning" because it "might partially protect against the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health, and would be less expensive than the 'fashionable' sleep or loungewear gaining popularity as working from home becomes the norm."
Another study conducted by a Japanese university discovered that cats can indeed recognize their names when you call them. It's not just cats, by the way. Vital research from a Hungarian university concluded that dogs can also grasp both words and intonation when humans speak to them. So now employers can feel free to allow their people to bring their pets to the office, because if a cat can understand its name, who knows what administrative tasks it can potentially accomplish?
In another profound use of tuition dollars, student researchers at Princeton University have finally uncovered a way to predict with 100 percent accuracy where the cream ends up when you twist an Oreo. I'm not going to give away the secret here, but suffice it to say that once this is universally known employers should benefit from the countless hours of unproductive time that will be saved in the employee breakroom.
In 2016, none other than the New York Times took up valuable space in its pages by reporting a study conducted by Canada's McGill University that shockingly revealed that exercise makes our muscles better with age. The takeaway: Everyone plays on the company softball team this summer, no exceptions. And while we're talking about health, another 2016 study conducted by Japanese researchers concluded that eating healthier foods can improve your life expectancy. So come to think of it, cancel those Oreos.
Please know that certain ingredients in marijuana can make rats lazy, and for that breaking news we can thank the researchers at the University of British Columbia. So, if you're thinking of changing your company's drug use policy, you might want to take that into account.
And by the way, after extensive research, a team of scientists at the University of Connecticut have concluded that using hand dryers in the bathroom help to make fecal matter airborne. Better call OSHA.
Want more? Sure. Let's go to the U.K.
That's where, after extensive late-night analysis (I'm assuming) researchers at King's College London have come to the firm conclusion that the "dark web" is primarily used for illicit activities. A study conducted by Oxford University warns that most of your Facebook friends aren't really your friends. The University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology has found that Spider Man can't exist because humans have too much body mass. And if that isn't enough, a researcher at the University of Oxford concluded that if the Earth were to turn into a giant blueberry, the "crushing force of the outer-edge would then compress and heat up the inner ones into a thick jam that would generate rollicking earthquakes." Not to be outdone, one of the researcher's colleagues at Oxford warns that Uranus smells like rotten eggs.
Back here in the U.S., an academic paper published by a financial engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis found that destroying the Death Star would trigger an economic crisis in "Star Wars'" fictional universe, and I swear I am not kidding about this. Neither is he. "Given that the Rebel Alliance is the 'scrappy underdog,' without the resources to build multiple moon-sized space stations, this is a sum they do not have," the professor wrote. "Without such funds at the ready, it is likely that the Galactic economy would enter an economic depression of astronomical proportions." I hope Janet Yellen is paying attention.
A team of researchers in Asia found that mosquitoes don't like the music of Skrillex, and who can blame them? Those of you in the agriculture industry should also be aware that attaching a toilet plunger to a chicken's butt will make it walk like a dinosaur, and for that you can thank research funded by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile.
And every year a scientific humor magazine organizes a special awards ceremony that honors "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." This year's prize winners include an analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in wads of discarded chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries, and whether or not the obesity of a country's politicians may be a good indicator of that country's corruption. According to Wikipedia, the name of the award - the Ig Nobel Prize - is "a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and on the word ignoble (not noble)."
So funny, right? Actually, it's not funny. Why?
Because if you're helping your employees pay down the overwhelming amounts of student debt they've incurred because our bloated universities around the world are funding this kind of nonsense, we're all being duped. It's a waste, and it hurts both employees and their employers.
A temporary tax break or even government forgiveness doesn't fix this problem. It only serves to further fund this stupidity. It allows the higher-education-industrial-complex to continue to behave as it's always done. It enables our universities to take money from our children, our employees and our businesses. Unfortunately, the more we take advantage of these government incentives, the more we encourage this behavior.
Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.