TALK’n TROUBLE: Back to $chool


August is the beginning of the end of summer. It’s time to think about going back to school. We may be getting our kids, grandkids, or even ourselves ready to return or report to the classroom for a milestone first day. Anybody new to school is just as likely to be nervous as to be thrilled about facing this rite of passage. We like to think students of all ages (and their teachers) are looking forward to heading “back to school;” to being together again and to all the opportunities a new school year can represent. These days, that routine of going back to school feels like one of the few common experiences left in our rapidly changing and fragmenting cultural landscape. You know it’s still an all-American thing when back-to-school spending is up around $41.5 Billion!

It’s pretty widely known that for all sorts of reasons the K-12 experience of school is different for girls than it is for boys. Around middle school, the girls often tend to retreat as the boys barge through and dominate the classroom environment. Also common knowledge is the fact that young women attend and graduate from college at a higher rate than young men who can lack the social skills and discipline required to make it through the higher ed gauntlet. There is another area of gender discrepancy related to education. That is paying for it. Nearly 45 million of us are carrying student debt right now. That’s almost one in five Americans (17.4%) according to “Those ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to hold student loan debt, but the greatest amount is owed by those 35 to 49 — more than $600 billion, federal data show.” In March 2023, the average federal student loan debt in the U.S. was about $37,720. Wow. That’s a substantial burden to carry as a graduate starting out in the world and trying to build a life and career. Women are 58% of college graduates but they hold 65% of the staggering $1.6 TRILLION in student debt in the US.

There are several reasons women borrow more than men to get their degrees.

  • More women earn higher cost, high-level graduate and post-grad degrees.
  • Women attend for-profit schools at a higher rate and those schools are almost double the cost of public colleges.
  • Families rarely save and contribute as much to educating their girls as they do boys.
  • Lower pay in the workplace affects women’s ability to repay loans.
  • Slower repayment costs more in interest over time.

As of this writing, we know President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan has been defeated in Congress and the Supreme Court. Still, some borrowers may have part of their loans forgiven. The administration has changed some income-driven plans. Because of those changes, more borrowers may be able to structure repayment based on their family size and how much they make. Depending on the plan you qualify for, after 20-25 years the remaining amount owed could be forgiven.

Most guidance suggests that students should think about how they’ll pay before they borrow.

Kiplinger describes three methodologies:

  •   Standard Repayment plan: You will make fixed payments for up to 10 years and will accrue less interest, which saves money In the long run.
  •   Graduated Repayment plan: Your student loan payments will start low and will gradually increase as you begin to make more money.
  •   Extended Repayment Plan: You will make student loan payments for up to 25 years. Unlike the income-driven plans, your balance will need to be fully repaid at the end of the 25-year term. (subject to eligibility requirements).

Trouble wishes the best of luck to all the learners and teachers headed back to school this year. We will celebrate our third anniversary on August 18 and then turn our sights back to the work at hand as we embark on our fourth year of Making Trouble for Good. We hope you’ll celebrate with us and take us back to school with you! Spread the word about Trouble. Make a purchase to share with a student or educator you love and support the change you want to see in the world by helping us fund our partners and the work they do to advance equity for women and girls. Thank you!

Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.

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