The Student Debt Crisis: An Overlooked Women’s Issue

Photo by RossHelen/iStock / Getty Images

Women are carrying most of the nation’s student debt. Here’s what can be done for graduates bearing a heavy debt burden.

 The student debt crisis is the next financial disaster waiting to happen, and women are bearing an unfair proportion of this burden.

As of 2016, Americans held about $1.3 trillion in student debt, and this massive debt burden is stifling individuals and the overall economy.

Research by The Levy Economics Institute found that student loan debt reduces home buying, limits the creation of new small businesses while it delays marriage and starting a family. These fallout effects are not only distressing to the individuals personally impacted, everyone is hurt as they ripple throughout the economy.

Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of American economic growth, therefore, reducing a consumer’s cash flow can in turn slow total economic growth, this impacts everything, from business to government. 

Unfortunately, women bear the brunt of the student debt. Women account for about 56% of college and university students in the U.S., but as of mid-2018 nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt was held by women. This clearly makes student loan debt a women’s issue.

Further, women take on larger student loans than men. The gender pay gap means women make less money than men which means it takes women longer to pay back their loans, and the larger payments and compounding interest charges make getting an education and even more expensive endeavor for women.

What can you do if you hold student loans?

Once you are out of college, paying off your student loan can be a daunting task, and one that doesn’t necessarily get better with time. While new graduates have lower salaries to fund their loan payments with, they usually have fewer other financial obligations, like a house and a family. This is why it is important that no matter what stage of the pay-off cycle you are in, it is important to find ways to reduce the amount you owe and the payments you make.

Refinancing

 Many private lenders are competing for your business, they want to lend you money. Use this competition in your favor by shopping around for a lender that you could transfer your loan to in exchange for a lower interest rates.

The best rates go to those with the best credit, therefore, even if you have been paying your loan for years you may find that when you are a few years out of school you will have a higher credit rating and then are more likely to qualify for a lower interest rate. In other words, it is never too late to consider refinancing. A new graduate with limited credit could get a great interest rate if they have a co-signer. Either way, lower interest rates can save borrowers thousands of dollars.

Loan forgiveness

Another way to reduce the amount owed is to find out if you qualify for some student loan forgiveness. Sometimes employers will offer some sort of loan payment to new hires. If you’re hunting for a job, pay attention to the benefits offered by potential employers. If you are already employed, look to see if some sort of loan help is available.

Also, if you work for a government organization or a qualifying not-for-profit, you may be eligible for public service loan forgiveness through the government, according to Robert Farrington, Founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com.

Maximize your payments

Pay as much as you can. Maximize your monthly payments and pay off chunks when you have extra money.  By paying more than is required, particularly early in the loan cycle, you can save a great deal of the interest you would pay if you took the entire term to pay back your loan.