Women owe about $1 trillion in student loans
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By Mark Kantrowitz

May 23, 2018

According to a report published by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women owe about $1 trillion in student loans, nearly two-thirds of the $1.5 trillion in total outstanding student loan debt. The report, Deeper in Debt, was updated to reflect new data in May 2018.

Causes of differences in student loan debt by gender

This phenomenon is caused by a combination of four factors:

  • More women are enrolled in college than men. According to the AAUW report, women represented 56% of college enrollment in 2016.
  • Women are more likely to graduate with student loan debt than men. According to the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16), women represented 62% of college students graduating with student loan debt in 2016. Nearly 59% of female college graduates graduated with student loan debt, compared with 50% of male college graduates.
  • Women incur a greater amount of student loan debt than men. According to the AAUW report, women graduated with $2,700 more student loan debt than men in 2016, up from $1,400 in 2012.
  • Female college graduates earn lower income than men for the same jobs. According to the AAUW report, female college graduates earn 26% less than male college graduates in 2016. This gender pay gap means that women have less disposable income than men to repay their student loans.

This quadruple whammy causes women to carry a much greater share of the national student loan debt burden than men. Female college graduates struggle with higher debt levels than men.

Differences in college savings by gender

A possible contributing factor is that parents seem less likely to save for the college education of female children than of male children.

T. Rowe Price’s 2017 Parents, Kids & Money Survey reported that 50% of parents of boy-only households had saved money for their children’s college educations, compared with 39% of parents of girl-only households. The survey also found that men are more likely to have saved for their children’s college education than women (65% vs. 38%).

According to data from the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16), male undergraduate students are more likely to receive help from their parents than female students, 55.2% vs. 49.2%.

The 2016 Annual College Savings Survey conducted by SavingforCollege.com found that male parents play a greater role in saving for their children’s college education than female parents, demonstrate greater knowledge and confidence about saving for college, and are more likely to use 529 college savings plans.

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you