Women comprise 56% of those people who were enrolled in colleges and universities last year. On a ratio basis, their debt problems are much larger than the percentage of this population. Some 64% of college debt is held by women.
According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW):
The scale of outstanding student loans and an increasing share of borrowers who fail to repay mean that many Americans have become aware of student debt as a challenge for society and for individual borrowers. But many do not think of student debt as a women’s issue despite the fact that women represented 56 percent of those enrolled in American colleges and universities in fall 2016. This report reveals that they also take on larger student loans than do men. And because of the gender pay gap, they have less disposable income with which to repay their loans after graduating from college, so they require more time to pay back their student debt than do men. As a result, women hold nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt in the United States.
If the report is correct, the primary cause is income inequality. That makes sense. Across the economy, women earn 78% of what men do at the same job. That gulf has closed at a snail’s pace, which means the women’s college debt problem likely will worsen.
The college debt profile between men and women is also very different:
As student loans have become commonplace few people have examined the role of gender in how much debt students take on. AAUW’s analysis of federal government data has found that women are more likely to take on debt (44 percent of female undergraduates take on debt in a year compared to 39 percent of male undergraduates). On average women take on more debt than men at almost every degree level and type, from associate degrees to doctoral degrees and across institution types. On average across degree levels women in college take on initial student loan balances that are about 14 percent greater than men’s in a given year. Upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, women’s average accrued student debt is about $1,500 greater than men’s, and black women take on more student debt on average than do members of any other group.
It is an ugly picture, with little hope for change.