These statistics about women and student loan debt will upset you
Does your student loan debt feel crushing? Do you identify as a woman? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, you are NOT alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. According to a recent report, women hold nearly two-thirds of student loan debt in the United States, even though they make up only half the population.
The American Association of University Women released the report this week, and you will probably find the results depressing.
The report claims that women hold the majority — $833 billion — of unpaid loans in the U.S.
A number of reasons could be playing a role:
One, more women are going to college than men. About 56 percent of University students are women, the report claims. Two, women are taking more loans than men are.
“In a given year about 44 percent of women enrolled in undergraduate programs take out loans compared to 39 percent of men,” a researcher writes in the report. “Women enrolled in undergraduate programs take on an average of about $3,100 in student loans per year—about $400 more than the average man. By graduation the typical woman receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2011-12 had an average of about $21,000 in student loans, $1,500 more than the typical man.”
The pay gap between men and women — both before and after graduation — could be at fault.
Even though college students are just as likely to work across all genders, women earn an average of $1,500 less per year. The less money you make, the more likely you are to need loans to support yourself through college.
The pay gap can also affect a woman’s ability to pay back the loan quickly: According the report, women with bachelor’s degrees earned about 26 percent less than men with bachelor’s degrees.
These statistics hit women of color especially hard, the report emphasizes.
A third of black women who graduated in 2011 or 2012 have more than $40,000 in student debt.
“Time spent in college now sometimes means unmanageable student debt that drags down those seeking greater opportunity, especially low-income women, women of color, and women who drop out before completing a degree or credential,” AAUW board chair Patricia Fae Hoe wrote.
Financial empowerment matters. If you’re struggling with student loan debt, here are five free resources to help you get started.