Deeper in Debt: Women & Student Loans

Women often take on more college debt — and they take longer and struggle more to pay it off — in part because of the gender pay gap. The problem is even worse for women of color.

AAUW is dedicated to getting the college debt crisis under control. Learn more about how women are disproportionately impacted by student loans — and steps we can take to make college more affordable and accessible for all!

Student loan debt is growing

College attendance is at a record high. Yet the price tag of a college education has more than doubled over the past generation while household incomes have barely budged. About 44 million borrowers in the U.S. hold around $1.46 trillion in student debt.

Women take about 2 years longer than men to repay student loans. From the moment women graduate from college, most face a gender pay gap — which compounds as they age. This makes it even harder to pay off their larger share of student debt.

As a result, women often put off saving for retirement, buying a home or starting a business.

How do we solve the problem?

  • Congress must protect and expand Pell Grants for low-income students to reduce the amount of student load debt they have to take on to complete a degree. Passing stronger legislation to address the gender pay gap is also critical.
  • State and Federal Legislators should increase funding for public colleges and universities and support efforts to move toward tuition — and debt-free options for students.
  • The U.S. Department of Education and lawmakers should make it easier for students to enroll in income-driven repayment options to help mitigate some women’s financial difficulties. Student loan borrowers should have protections from abusive and fraudulent practices by schools, lenders and loan services.
  • Institutions can address both the academic and overall financial needs of students, such as affordable access to child care.
  • Individuals can join organizations like AAUW that work to close the gender pay gap.

Take Action

Stand up for equity in education: Tell your legislators to cosponsor GEEA!

Act Now