- Dec 2013
- Beware of watermelons
For at least the last decade, candidates for elected office have touted plans to make higher education more affordable, and progressive politicians have put forth bold policies to address the problem. But few have been explicit about its gender breakdown. Women bear a disproportionate brunt of the national student debt, and that has and continues to cost them billions in lost wealth and missed opportunities.
Of course, some of that burden stems from the fact that more women enroll in American universities than men do. At the undergraduate level, women account for 56 percent of all students. But even that number doesn’t explain the share of debt women owe. As AAUW senior vice president of public policy and research Deborah Vagins notes, just one factor can explain the the stark differential: the wage gap.
We’ve insisted for decades now that women pursue advanced education, the better to secure good salaries and more skilled work. And that’s great, Vagins adds. But after graduation and at the federal level, the nation hasn't done enough to ensure that those women are compensated at the same rates as men. The wage gap kicks in as soon as women enter the job market, which means that, from the start, they have fewer resources to pay back loans, they pay them off more slowly, and they rack up more interest in the process. The effects snowball, Vagins suggests.