Student loan debt payback is typically a nightmare for anyone. But for women, the problem is dramatically magnified.
Since college costs have become so ridiculously high, student loans have become standard operating procedure for millions of Americans. A whopping 68% of all graduating students (that’s almost 7 out of 10 folks), end their college careers with substantial student loan debt. Making matters worse, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that women are having an even tougher time repaying the debt.
The findings of the AAUW are startling: 44% of female undergraduates take out student loans as compared to 39% for men and they graduate with more debt. Women who obtain a bachelor’s degree average $1,500 more in debt than their male counterparts.
Adding race to the equation reveals that black students overall graduate with more debt on average than white students—and following form – the highest amount burdens black women; with $10,117 more in student loan debt than white men and $8,841 more in debt than white women. Black women also carry more debt ($29,000) than black men ($25,000).
In 2012, over 1/3 of black female bachelor’s degree graduates had more than $40,000 in student loans compared to 10% of white women, 16% of Hispanic women, and 8% of Asian women. As a group, Asian students graduate with the lowest student loan debt ($11,000).
You might believe these figures are the result of more women attending college than men. Not so per the report – 64% of student loan debt is owned by women, which is not in proportion to the level of their enrollment.
AAUW SAYS THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS FOR THIS DISPROPORTION
Most students work while in school and the gender pay gap could mean that women students, particularly women of color, are earning less and must take out more loans. This makes them less likely to make payments toward their loans while they’re in school. In addition, students of color usually have less financial support: “The typical white family has 16 times the accrued wealth of the typical black family in the United States.”
The report further indicates that “nontraditional “students, such as those who have children, are mostly women or people of color. Since they are encumbered with the additional financial burden of childcare, upon graduation average student loan debt is $26,600 as opposed to $19,100 for childless students.
PAYBACK BY WOMEN ALSO TAKES LONGER
Following graduation, women remain in debt longer than men; meaning that “in addition to taking on larger initial loans, women also pay more on their loans during repayment as interest accrues.”
The report further indicates that Black and Latina women “paid off only about 12% and 18% of their debt in that three-year period, respectively, compared to 33% and 60% of white and Asian women.”
Enhancing its point about the impact of the gender pay gap, which is preventing women from having access to the funds needs to more rapidly retire their student loan debt, the study reported that a 4-year degree yielded a 75% pay increase for men, but only 66% for women.
Closing the wage gap would obviously help a lot and make the college degree cost and eventual payback a non-gender issue. Of course, reducing tuition and other related costs to make the entire educational process more affordable for everyone would be a profound way to get the ball rolling.
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