Research Shows Women Suffer More from Student Loan Debt

New research shows women affected more by student loan debt than men.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 21, 2015

Research Shows Women Suffer More from Student Loan Debt Research Shows Women Suffer More from Student Loan Debt

On a daily basis, you can find some type of coverage on the “student loan crisis,” whether it’s expert advice on how to pay on time, an increase in the default rates or proposed solutions on forgiving student loan debt. But what you probably haven’t heard is how it’s affecting women and men differently – until recently. VICE distributed some eye-opening research on how the student loan crisis is impacting women more negatively than men and its creation of a systematic gender wealth gap.

VICE highlighted the following:

Just as more women are going to college, they’re also taking out more student loans. According to the American Association of University Women, 68% of women are leaving college with debt, compared with 63% of men. Furthermore, women make up 62% of the students attending pricey, private colleges and a million more women than men are going to community colleges, where only 1 in 5 students actually graduate within five years.

Women are also making less than men. The American Association of University Women also published in a 2013 study that women who graduated in 2008 made 82% of what men made on an annual basis. In the business field, women made 82 cents to a male peer’s dollar; in sales it was 77 cents; and male nurses made as much as $5,100 more each year than female nurses.

For women, the student debt and pay gaps don’t just affect their finances; they affect their entire lives. VICE reports that NetCredit states women in debt are less likely to marry. In general, about half of all debt-straddled college graduates put off buying a home and a quarter actually delay having children.

As you can see, student loan debt isn’t just creating financial implications to society; it’s actually creating a lifelong quality of life disparity between women and men. So what can women do to help improve their ability to pay off student loans, and thereby, their lives?

Lobby for change. From presidential hopefuls, Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, to Patricia Arquette’s Best Supporting Actress speech at the Academy Awards earlier this year, political and cultural influencers are starting to spread awareness about the gender pay gap. Every day citizens can also petition their legislators with this issue. By demanding a response, women can help change the landscape to ensure that they earn just as much as men.

Borrow smart. Do not borrow more than you can realistically pay back after graduation. Do a little research on potential careers before you even commit to college, and don’t borrow more in student loans than your expected annual salary. That means if you’re likely to make $40,000 a year after graduation, don’t borrow $50,000 to pay for school.

Pay back aggressively. After graduation, you have a six-month grace period in which you do not have to pay back student loans. As soon as you become employed, start saving your expected student loan payment each month. When it comes time to pay back your student loans, you can make a big first payment. You’re also allowed to make extra payments – so if you reach the end of a month and have $50 leftover, use it to pay down your student loans. Above all, do not miss payments. You’ll soon find yourself in a hole that is extremely difficult from which to dig out.

While the cultural landscape does need to shift to ensure equality for female graduates, women can take individual steps on their own to alleviate their student loan burdens. Fastweb has plenty of advice on how to plan for student loans as well as manage student loan debt after graduation. Take the first step in improving your quality of life and student debt outcomes by educating yourself on the best practices.

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