How Student Loan Debt Affects Women
The American Association of University Women conducts a comprehensive survey each year that closely examines the state of …
The American Association of University Women runs a thorough investigation each year that closely examines the situation of women and student debt. The survey often reveals sobering results, and the 2021 update is no different.
According to this most recent report, women owe about two-thirds of the country’s $ 1.7 trillion in outstanding student loans.
Women of color bear a disproportionate burden. The study, Deeper in Debt: Women & Student Loans, reports that black women have about 20% more debt than white women. The researchers found that a year after graduation, black women on average owe more than other women with undergraduate student loans, averaging $ 41,466 compared to $ 38,747 for Pacific Island women and Hawaiian, $ 36,184 for Native American and Alaska Native women, $ 33,852 for white women, $ 29,302 for Hispanic women, and $ 27,607 for Asian women.
On average, black women also lead other women in cumulative student loan debt one year after graduate school, at $ 75,086, compared to white women, who had the highest average cumulative student loan debt. low among women after graduate school at $ 56,099.
The lack of quality and affordable child care is especially difficult for minority women, many of whom report financial difficulties in trying to repay their student loans, the study found. As a result, minority mothers in particular are unable to complete college in many cases. A report from the Center for American Progress notes that lack of childcare is repeated from generation to generation, with many mothers unable to complete their education, seek new employment opportunities and increase their income to support their families because they cannot obtain child care affordable and reliable.
Factors Affecting Student Loan Repayment by Women
The results of this year’s AAUW survey highlight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on women’s finances and student loan debt. In the first weeks of last year’s pandemic, “women filed nearly 59% of unemployment claims, despite only making up half of the workforce,” according to the study. Researchers predict that this will contribute to the tendency of women to have higher student loan debts.
Pay inequalities also add to the challenges. The AAUW survey notes that it takes about two years longer for women than men to pay off their student loan debt. This could be partly due to the fact that women still earn less on average than men.
Before the pandemic, according to the study, women in their first year in college were expected to earn 81% of what their male counterparts were paid. Longer student debt means more interest paid, which reduces the resources available to spend on important milestones like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, or saving for retirement.
The challenge is compounded by rising tuition fees and associated education expenses. The cost of college education has more than doubled over the past generation even as “household incomes have barely budged,” notes the survey report.
Resources to Reduce Women’s Student Debt
Women who feel financial pressure are wise to explore the resources available to them to minimize and manage student debt. There are grants and scholarships that can help reduce the amount of student loans taken out or, in other cases, help those who are already struggling with student loan debt.
[Read: Scholarships for Women Abound.]
For non-traditional students, for example, The Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation offers scholarships to “mature” students over 25, sending scholarships directly to partner colleges and universities for selected students. The typical age of beneficiaries is 35 and the majority work full or part time and volunteer.
The Jeannette Rankin Scholarship Fund for Women offers scholarships and support to low-income American women aged 35 and over to help them build better lives through post-secondary education. The website notes that the fund’s definition of women who can apply includes “trans and non-binary people, intersex and ag people, and queer people.”
Another resource to explore is the GoGirl! Subsidies program from The Girlfriend Factor, a California-based organization dedicated to empowering women. Applicants must be 25 years of age or older and demonstrate financial need. These women are also required to complete a four-year degree or certificate in their chosen profession and live and attend school in Coachella Valley, California.
Women entering science, technology, engineering, or math fields – or enrolled in STEM-related programs – have many options to explore when it comes to helping pay for college. Two examples are The BHW scholarship in the amount of $ 3,000 and funding from The Society of Women Engineers, which in 2020 awarded over 250 new and renewed scholarships totaling over $ 1 million. The Pathways to science The nonprofit Institute’s Broadening Participation initiative also offers funding opportunities for women who pursue STEM courses.
Also, consider federal grants based on financial need. The Pell scholarship, for example, is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. To apply for the Pell Grant, applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
Financial resources for women struggling with student debt are also worth exploring. Singlemothersgrants.org, for example, offers a directory of information on all kinds of scholarships, grants and other forms of financial assistance for single mothers.
Other potential sources of help are reimbursement options for federal student loans that might make sense for your specific financial situation. You can also team up with nonprofit student loan counselors who are trained to help you look at your full financial situation and explore options.
Finally, with all the uncertainties surrounding the extension of federal COVID relief measures, it is worthwhile to stay up to date on information from the US Department of Education regarding the end of emergency assistance benefits for federal student loan borrowers, which is scheduled for January 31, 2022.
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