College is getting more and more expensive, but a college degree is a vital credential for a young person entering the workforce. So how are you going to pay for college? The new normal is with student loans.
Women are now the majority on college campuses across the United States—representing 56% of all students enrolled as of fall 2016. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that on average, women hold $833 billion—or almost two-thirds—of the country’s $1.3-trillion student debt, compared to the $477 billion that men hold.
Women have made gains in the workplace but there’s still a wage gap. Although attending college costs the same for both genders, women are more burdened by student loan debt after graduating. They spend a higher proportion of their salaries on paying off debt because, well, they have lower salaries to work with than men — from the very start.
When you combine the need for more student loans to pay for school with the wage gap, it’s easy to understand why women take longer to pay off their debt. Because women struggle more to manage their loan that also means that they have to delay other financial goals.
About one-third of women experience financial difficulties, (like covering living expenses) while paying off their loans, compared to just one-fourth of men, according to the study. And a full 57% of African American women repaying student loans say they were unable to meet essential expenses within the past year.
So how do you get that vitally important degree and still achieve your financial goals? It is a tricky needle to thread, but we’re going to give you the information you need to prevent this aspect of your financial life from taking over completely. We’ll give you some background on the impact of student loans on women and why women take longer to pay off their student loan debt. Then we’ll give you some tips on how to limit that debt. We’ve got some handy calculators to help you assess pay-off strategies, and we’ll share some information on how to get some of those loans forgiven.
Student loans are likely a person’s first foray into the financial world, but student loan debt has long-term consequences. From buying a car or a home to getting married and even having children, many millennials are putting off life’s major milestones because of their outstanding student loans. This has many dire effects, namely the inability to build up a good credit history early in life.
In the time period between one and four years after graduation, men paid off an average of 38 percent of their outstanding debt, while women paid off 31 percent. Difficulty repaying student loans is also reflected in default rates, which are higher for women than for men, and much higher for black and Hispanic borrowers than for white and Asian borrowers. Women — especially women of color — are most likely to experience difficulties: 34 percent of all women and 57 percent of black women who were repaying student loans reported that they had been unable to meet essential expenses within the past year.
The struggles of college graduates with student debt can be significant, but students who leave college without completing their academic program are more than twice as likely as graduates to default on their student loans. While these borrowers may have debt amounts that are small in absolute terms, their precarious economic position without a certificate or degree to improve their prospects in the labor market means that they may be unable to repay those loans.
Student loans are pretty much unavoidable. There are many strategies to reduce the amount you need to take, and ways to mitigate the challenges they pose, but let’s start this conversation assuming you have or are going to have some serious student loan debt. What you need to know is this: like any other financial challenge you are going to face in your life, this one is manageable. With a little bit of knowledge and some hard work, you can get your student loan debt under control.
For many young women, the challenge of paying back student loans is their first encounter with the pay gap.