"There's been a lot of attention paid to student loan indebtedness but very little focus has been put to the way debt impacts men and women differently," AAUW director and report co-author, Catherine Hill, told Forbes. At the same time women suffer a pay gap after graduation, women are in greater need of a college education to ensure better career options and salary prospects. A study by Ohio State University in the journal Gender & Society this year revealed that men without a college degree have better chances of finding a job (and a better-paying one at that) than women. The study also found that women were more likely to take out loans than men -- with 40% of women and 34% of men taking out loans annually. "At least early in their careers, women suffer more than men if they don't have a college degree," said Rachel Dwyer, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, in a press release. "Women will go deeper in debt to finance college because they need the degree more than men if they want to earn a good living. Men will drop out at lower levels of debt."
Additionally, the OSU study showed that men who dropped out of college got salaries competitive with male college graduates, at least in the early phase of their careers. Yet women who did not complete their degree program earned approximately $6,500 a year less than female college graduates. This discrepancy was consistent when controlling for other factors that can influence income, such as different fields and hours worked. Dwyer noted that one reason men may be able to get jobs that pay a salary competitive with their college degree-holding male peers is that men can get jobs in better-paying industries that emphasize manual labor, such as construction, carpentry, auto mechanics and manufacturing -- ones women typically are not considered for or do not have easy access to. So what would be the solution to addressing student loan debt disparity between the genders? "What we need is policy with much stronger penalties against employers that are found to discriminate on pay," Hill said. Until then, it would seem many women are stuck with a larger student debt burden than men.