When you break down student loan debt by gender, women hold the bulk of student loans in America.

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They also earn less money after graduation.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the “pay gap” between men and women. What you may not know is that it’s making it harder for women to pay their student loans back on time.

Women hold two-thirds of the $1.4 trillion student loan debt, says a study from the American Association of University Women.

“Student debt levels have reached an all-time high, with women carrying a bigger burden of debt than men,” says AAUW CEO Kim Churches. “This debt is an albatross for many women as they embark on careers and work to support their households and families. And, it only gets worse over time when coupled with the gender pay gap.”

Breaking down student loan debt by gender

Women hold $890 billion worth of the student loan debt in the country, while men only collectively hold $490 billion. Meaning, women are bearing the bulk of the student loan debt crisis. Over the past four years, the difference in debt between the two sexes has doubled.

Even worse, women make up 56 percent of enrolled college students, yet still hold 65 percent of outstanding student loan debt. And at an undergraduate graduation, 71 percent of women graduating with their bachelor’s have student debt. Meanwhile, their male counterparts hold 66 percent.

Then women are faced with other harsh factors negatively impacting their finances. Women take two years longer to pay back their student loans, on average. And there are several reasons the study concluded to be causing longer repayment time. Full-time, working women with college degrees earn 26 percent less than their male peers.

“The imbalances compound,” Churches says. “Higher student debt, lower pay, child and family care costs, and other factors all add up to leave women at a deficit as they work to maintain financial security. With women leading more households today, enough is enough. Solutions are needed now.”

And black women are feeling the pressure of this gap the most. Black women graduate with $30,400 of student loans, on average, while white women have $22,000. But, white men? No surprise, carry $19,500 — far lower women, and two-thirds of what black women have. Black women with bachelor’s degrees also make 37 percent less than white men with the same education level.

Is there hope for the student loan debt crisis?

Congress is considering revamping the Higher Education Act, a bill signed into law in 1965 with the intention to “strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education,” the law says.

Sounds great, but there’s one problem — it hasn’t been updated since 2008. Oh yeah, and since it was signed into law, the number of student loans has increased from 31.5 million to 45 million. The AAUW has requested Congress to improve the Pell Grant program as part of the reauthorization of the law, CBS News reports.

“With the Higher Education Act, Congress has the opportunity to set today’s students up for success – and that includes making sure they don’t graduate with crippling debt,” says AAUW executive Deborah J. Vagins.  “We need to support policies that make higher education accessible and affordable for all students, provide support and protection for student borrowers, and help eliminate the gender and race gaps in student loans.”

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

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