And women often get hurt the most by it
There are good debts and there are bad debts.
That’s the common financial wisdom: Credit cards and personal loans are considered “bad debts” to be avoided at almost all costs, while mortgages and student loans are considered good debts — things almost everyone should fine with taking on.
But ask people — particularly women — if they wish they had not taken on student loans and you’ll find that many answer affirmatively. Indeed, nearly half (48%) of women say they regret it, according to a recent survey of more than 1700 U.S. adults from Student Loan Hero. That’s compared to just 40% of men who say the same.
One big reason: They aren’t even using the degree they paid so much for. Indeed about half of women say this is the case for them, and about 20% say they couldn’t find a job in the field they got a degree in, according to a recent survey from personal finance site finder.
That was the case for 30-year-old Miranda Hodge, who graduated in 2009 from a small, private Texas university with a degree in cross-cultural studies and $25,000 in debt. “I couldn’t find a job after school. I was a barista until about four years ago,” she says. On a barista’s income, Hodge — who lives with her husband — was struggling financially in pricey Seattle and facing nearly $500 a month in loan payments. “They [the loans] kept me back from doing things … we had a hard time making ends meet with the high rent and just the bills,” Hodge, who has since moved to more budget-friendly Oklahoma City for a marketing job, says. “We didn’t get to enjoy Seattle because it costs money — even to go to the mountains. We’d think ‘we’d love to go hiking, but that would cost a tank of gas.’”
“I definitely regret them a lot,” says Hodge of the loans. “If I could go back and change things, I might go back and go to a different school that didn’t cost as much,” she says — adding that there are things she doesn’t regret about the experience such as meeting her husband and dear friends.
She’s far from the only woman struggling with loans. Indeed, student loan issues are even more common among women than men. Not only do women earn 57% of the bachelor’s degrees in America, they’re more likely than men to take on student debt, according to the American Association of University Women. What’s more, 44% of female undergraduates take on debt in a given year, compared to 39% of male undergraduates. And, the report notes, “upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, women’s average accrued student debt is about $1,500 greater than men’s.” The average woman with debt and a bachelor’s graduates with nearly $21,000 in debt, compared to less than $19,500 for women.
For many women, the loans are barely tolerable. Indeed, more than one in four women (28%) see their student loan debt as “not at all manageable,” the Student Loan Hero survey revealed — compared to 13% of men.
Anne Jordan received her bachelor’s degree in political science in America, couldn’t find work and ended up going to culinary school in France. “I regret taking out many of my loans. I owe $180,000 and will be paying them off until I retire. Instead of vacations … any income I make goes to these loans,” she tells Moneyish.
The debt is such a burden for Jordan that she calls the student loan issue “indentured servitude.” And for her it must feel like that. “The worst part is I broke my back after working one incredibly long day [and]night, and going back to work in a kitchen, standing 16 hours a day would be torture. So my career ended after three years in industry. There is no recourse for me.”
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