ATLANTA, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As many American workers look for less-costly alternatives to traditional education, online education, considered a game-changing trend for 2013, i is becoming a viable option. When offered by their employers through an employee purchase program as a voluntary benefit, online education gives employees an affordable way to attain first-year and catch-up college degree programs for themselves, and a variety of tutoring and SAT/ACT preparation courses for their family members. According to a nationwide survey conducted online by Harris Interactive® on behalf of Purchasing Power from January 23-25, 2013, among 2,160 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,151 are employed full-time and/or whose spouse is employed full-time, 53 percent of these workers/spouses of workers reported they would be at least somewhat likely to pursue educational services for themselves or their family if those educational services were available through an employee purchase program. A new white paper released today by Purchasing Power, "Knowledge is Power: Using Voluntary Benefits that Empower Employees with Education," uses proprietary and industry research to explore educational services as a new, much-needed voluntary benefit. The paper examines the financial crisis that traditional education is undergoing, the resulting surge in popularity of online education programs, the ability to access educational services through voluntary benefits such as employee purchase programs, and the advantages of doing so for both employees and employers. "Empowering employees with education benefits can be a valuable addition to the benefits package," says Richard Carrano, President and CEO, Purchasing Power. "Many employers currently provide some form of tuition assistance, but now they can offer a variety of learning options for employees and their families as a voluntary benefit, without further burdening their benefits budget. Non-traditional voluntary benefits like these are becoming increasingly popular with employees because they address employees' real-world lifestyles and financial needs," he adds. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive® in 2012 and 2013 found adults who are employed full-time and/or whose spouse is employed full-time indicate that educational services are important to them and that they would consider using a voluntary benefit – an employee purchase program – to access those educational services. ii The cost of obtaining a college education is escalating and because the out-of-pocket burden of such an expense is too much for most individuals to afford, alternative sources of capital are often sought to fund educational endeavors. Ninety-four percent of students use student loans to earn a bachelor's degree. The total value of student loan debt has passed $1 trillion. iii This is higher than the $692 billion of combined credit card and auto loan debt. "Offered as part of an employee purchase program, educational services, such as Purchasing Power's Learning Solutions, are a more affordable alternative for employees to fund education for themselves and their family members," Carrano explains. "Employees pay for these services through convenient payroll deductions over 12 months, providing a responsible way to budget and the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Thus, employees can invest in their future and advance their career," he concludes.