Women make up 56 percent of enrolled college students but hold 65 percent of the nation’s $1.4 trillion outstanding student loan debt, according to an analysis released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The report, which reflects new data from the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Aid Study, says 71 percent of women earning a bachelor’s degree graduate with student loan debt—and an average of $2,700 more debt than men. The disparity is even wider when comparing Black women, who graduate with an average of $30,400 in debt, and white men, who have an average of $19,500.
Calling the debt “an albatross for many women,” AAUW says the burden “only gets worse over time when coupled with the gender pay gap,” which has college-educated women earning, on average, 26 percent less than male peers. The group—a nonprofit organization seeking to empower women and girls—says this and other factors complicate loan repayment. Women take approximately two years longer than men to repay their student loans, which CNN Money notes can add even more interest to their debt burden.
In its report, AAUW recommends several ways to narrow the student loan gender gap, including increasing state and federal funding for higher education and expanding Pell Grants. They also call on institutions to better address the needs of nontraditional students, such as access to child care.