Many college students find that the only way to pay for higher education is to take student loans. Unfortunately, this leaves students with a mound of student debt when they enter the workforce. This may be an even bigger problem for women, since there is still a gender gap in pay. Right now, there are more women than men attending college and women on average are earning higher grades. Still, women are earning less than men who are in the same field and graduated at the same time.
About the Gender Gap
According to the American Association of University Women, these women tend to earn lower salaries than their male counterparts throughout their careers. Data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that this is not a small gap, and that women tend to earn an average of about 82% of what men. This lower rate of pay can make it much more difficult for women to handle the same level of student debt as male graduates.
What Causes the Salary Gap?
Researchers believe that the gender differences in pay are at least due to career choices. While women are more likely to choose a field like teaching, which pays less, men are more attracted to higher paying fields such as engineering. Even considering the career choices, a full third of the gender-related pay gap cannot be explained by college major, choice of career, or the number of hours worked. Some pay inequalities have also been attributed to college choice, chosen path within a career field, and similar factors.
What It Means for You
Even with student loan debt and pay discrepancies, it is important for women to continue pursuing a college education. Research has proven that women who hold bachelor’s degrees earn around 161% as much as their counterparts who did not attend college. The key is to manage your student debt to perceived pay ratio. Research the career you are entering to learn what rate of pay you can realistically expect. Keep your student loan debt at a level to which your expected monthly payments will not exceed 8% of your income. In addition, do not be afraid to negotiate a higher salary when interviewing for jobs after college. If you are well qualified, many employers will negotiate in order to make you part of the team.