Why the $1.5 Trillion Student Debt Crisis Hits Women Hardest

The gender money gap starts before you enter the workforce.

Student loan debt broke the $1.5 trillion mark in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve — and new data shows that for women especially, academic success comes with a price. Female graduates now have to contend with the burden of greater student loan debt in addition to the gender pay gap.

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Although more women are enrolling in American colleges than men — 56 percent as of fall 2016, according to the American Association of University Women — they’re also leaving higher education with more debt. The average graduate debt was $28,400 in 2015-16, but that number doesn’t reflect the particular challenge for women. On average, women owe $2,740 more than men upon completing a bachelor’s degree, and they carry nearly two-thirds of the nation’s outstanding student loan debt.

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The deck appears stacked against women who are trying to get ahead of their finances. With female borrowers taking out the most student loans, women are already at a financial disadvantage upon entering the professional world, where they encounter the gender pay gap. As a result, women find less disposable income in their wallets and take longer to repay their student loans, further widening the economic gap between women and men.

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But there’s hope even in the face of mounting student debt. Over half of people who have ever attended college say the lifetime benefits of higher education exceed the costs, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Board.

Click to find out how one woman paid off $81,000 in student loans while she was broke.

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