Women Hold Two-Thirds of U.S. Student Loan Debt
Women hold about two-thirds of the $1.3-trillion student debt in the U.S., according to a new report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans estimates that women hold $833 billion of the nation’s student debt load.
“It’s encouraging that women are enrolling in college more than ever before, but at the same time they are taking on larger amounts of debt to pay for their dreams,” said Kevin Miller, senior researcher for AAUW. “Because of factors like the gender pay gap, debt that could be manageable ends up becoming unmanageable, particularly for women.”
The report states that women, who earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded from U.S. colleges and universities, finance some or all of their education with student loans. Black women incur the largest amount of student debt among all women, the report states.
The gender pay gap in the U.S. impacts student loan repayment. Women with college degrees are paid 26 percent less than men. As a result, women repay their student loans more slowly than men, the report states.
“Women face a catch-22: go to college and take on student loan debt to get a higher paying job or, alternatively, forgo college and avoid the debt, but be locked out of higher-wage careers. We need to do better,” Miller said.
As a result of lower wages than men and a heavier debt load, women are more likely to experience financial difficulties after graduation. According to the report, “34 percent of all women, 42 percent of Hispanic women and 57 percent of black women who were repaying student loans said they had been unable to meet essential expenses within the past year.”
To ensure women have fair access to higher education and equality in the workplace, the AAUW recommends safeguarding and expanding Pell Grants for low-income students. It also suggests that federal government use realistic student loan repayment plans for college graduates.
“This isn’t just a student loan problem, it’s a gender inequity problem and it impacts us all,” said Anne Hedgepeth, senior government relations manager at AAUW. “As a nation, we rely on women to add to and strengthen our economy. That can’t happen under mountains of student debt.”