At Boston University, 61 percent of students are female, while just 39 percent are male — a vastly disproportionate ratio. But there is also a much more threatening disproportion at hand nationwide — those women, according to new data, are seeing far more than their fair share of student debt.
A recent study by the American Association of University Women found that nearly two-thirds of the country’s student debt is held by women. They hold $833 billion of debt compared to men’s $477 billion. This is a shocking disparity.
There are a few probable factors contributing to this statistic. The first lies in the fact that 56 percent of college students are women — they simply are enrolled in college at higher rates than their male counterparts. This is not a bad thing at all, but it doesn’t account for nearly that big of a disparity. The second factor is the gender wage gap that women face — women in the United States earn less than men for the same work, making it harder for them to pay off the debt they accumulate. The third, however, is a little less predictable: recent studies show that parents are saving more money for their sons’ college tuitions than their daughters’.
This last factor seems a little outrageous, and more than a little outdated — how could parents possibly prioritize their sons’ educations over their daughters? But the statistics back it up.
A study by LendEDU of over 1,400 college graduates found that 10 percent of men reported that their parents paid the majority of their tuition, while only six percent of women said the same. Another study by T. Rowe Price looked at 238 households, and while that’s not a huge number, it found that 50 percent of households with only sons saved for college, while just 35 percent of households with only daughters did.
This phenomenon is incredibly antiquated. We live in a time where more women are going to college than ever before, and yet, parents do not expect the same of their daughters that they do of their sons when it comes to higher education.
It probably isn’t even a conscious decision parents are making. In most cases, parents don’t just sit down and decide to invest more in their sons’ futures than their daughters’. But on a larger scale, this trend makes it clear that people have different expectations for boys and girls when it comes to college.
Whether parents think their daughters might marry rich, have kids and stop working early in their careers, or whether they just think their daughters are more likely to win scholarship money than their sons, when it comes time for parents to invest in their children’s futures, we are seeing a serious lack of responsibility.
This just demonstrates how women in our society continue to be held to a double standard. Parents expect their daughters to get good grades, earn scholarships and succeed academically, but this isn’t something they’re as willing to invest money in. They don’t hold their sons to nearly as high of standards, but they still save more for their sons’ college tuitions. It’s a hard problem to tackle, but an important one nonetheless.
As BU’s statistics show, most of us here are female — it’s likely that these statistics have some very real consequences for BU students. But most of us are also from middle and upper class families — we grew up with parents who expected us to go to college. For people less fortunate, people who didn’t grow up with those same expectations, this problem would have far more serious consequences.
We should be raising our sons and daughters the same — and that includes the kinds of savings accounts that we make for them. Women are every bit as capable of academic success as men, if not more. They should not be paying the price for it because of the sexism so deeply ingrained in our society.