Women Owe More

Continued from firstFurthermore, women with college degrees and full-time jobs tend to earn less money to pay down their student debt, making on average 26 percent less than their male colleagues. The picture is even bleaker for black and Latina women with bachelor’s degrees and full-time jobs: They earn on average 37 percent and 34 percent less, respectively. than white men and, as a result, often struggle to repay their loans, the study says.

“It’s a real problem and it’s a problem with a distinct gender component,” said Anne Hedgepath, the AAUW’s director of federal policy. “It [also] is taking women longer to repay their student debt for a number of reasons, like the gender pay gap in the workforce. Obviously, it has an impact on women’s economic security, so it can certainly have an influence on their ability to pay rent or their health care.”

To address the gender gap in student borrowing, AAUW has called for the U.S. Congress to strengthen the Pell Grant program as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The advocacy group also wants the government to increase aid to colleges and universities, provide loan forgiveness for students who pursue public service careers, and provide income-based repayment options to keep higher education affordable.

Worries about student debt are also affecting decisions about having children. A recent Morning Consult/New York Times survey of 1,858 men and women found that more than half said they planned to have fewer children than their parents. When pressed on the issue, 49 percent of respondents said they were worried about the economy, 44 percent said they couldn’t afford more children, and 43 percent said they delayed having children because of worries about financial stability. (Respondents could offer multiple reasons.)

College-educated women earn about 90 percent as much as men at age 25 and about 55 percent at age 45, according to a recent study.