Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans

Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans

Over the course of the past few decades, student loans have become an increasingly common means of paying for a college education. Most students who complete a college program now take on student loans, and the amount of student debt that students assume has increased along with the price of attending college. At this time about 44 million borrowers in the United States hold about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans.

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.

This report is intended to offer a broad overview of how student debt became a women’s issue and in doing so change the conversation around student debt to include gender-based analysis and solutions. The analysis ex- amines the experiences of women as a diverse population and presents statistics by race and ethnicity as well as other demographics. The report relies heavily on publicly available federal government survey data as well as published studies undertaken by academics and organizations researching the issue of student debt.

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