Smart Borrower Blog

Women Hold 64% of U.S. Student Loan Debt

May 24th, 2017 @ 9:42 PM by Amber Nelson

While women make up just over half (56 percent) of total U.S. college enrollment today, according to a new study, they carry almost two-thirds of the country’s student debt load.
In the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) recent report, several major gender discrepancies were found in student loan data. Currently, women owe $833 billion, or 64 percent of the U.S.’ $1.3 trillion total in student loan debt. Men hold just $477 billion.

On average, a woman’s loan debt is about $1500 higher than a man’s after finishing a bachelor’s degree. While this amount may seem small, it is important to note that more than half of all student loan defaults are on amounts of less than $10,000.

Also significant is that African American women are taking on the highest debt loads of any group of women. They average a total of $30,000 each in student loans. Part of the reason for this may be that a disproportionate amount of women and minorities are enrolled at for-profit colleges, which charge much higher tuition than many state and community universities and provide in-house private student loans with high interest rates.

And with a continued gap in pay between men and women in many jobs, it is taking women longer to repay their student debt as well. According to AAUW estimates, women earn 20 percent less than men four years after graduation with a bachelor’s degree, during which time 31 percent of women pay off their loans compared to 38 percent of men.

“College degrees have been an important method for many Americans to improve their financial stability and economic mobility—especially for women,” says Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at AAUW. “Women’s success in higher education is reducing the size of the gender pay gap, but student debt is making it harder for women to get the leg up that they need.”

And Anne Hedgepeth, a senior government relations manager at AAUW, hopes that Congress will expand the Pell Grant program. “We need to bolster existing financial aid so that future borrowers don’t find themselves in a similar situation as the women in our study,” she says.

About Amber Nelson
Amber Nelson is a seasoned mortgage industry writer and a regular contributor to and

Leave a Reply