A recent analysis by the American Association of University Women found that a sizable majority of all student debt in the US is owed by women—$890 billion out of $1.4 trillion—while individual women with bachelor’s degrees graduate with an average debt $2,700 greater than that of their male classmates:
The newly-released data from the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study also reveal that:
- Women comprise 56 percent of enrolled college students, but hold 65 percent of outstanding student loan debt;
- 71 percent of women have student loan debt at bachelor’s graduation compared to 66 percent of men; and
- Black women graduate with the most debt – at $30,400 – compared to $22,000 for white women and $19,500 for white men. …
The analysis shows how the burdens become compounded by other financial factors – where women take two years longer than men to repay their student loans, in part because of the gender pay gap. Women with college degrees who work full time make, on average, 26 percent less than their male peers, which leaves women with less income to devote to debt repayment. Compared to white men with bachelor’s degrees, black and Hispanic women with bachelor’s degrees make 37 percent and 34 percent less (respectively) and struggle to repay their loans as a result.
The Millennial generation is already known to be struggling with an unprecedented burden of student debt, driven by the rising cost of college, the financial impact of the Great Recession, and other factors. The AAUW analysis adds a new dimension to this problem by illustrating how acutely it affects women (particularly women of color), in combination with the other factors that contribute to their disproportionate levels of financial insecurity.