Editor's note: This story was originally published in May 2014.


While student debt is hard on everyone, it is reportedly harder for women to pay back, which could affect the 4,340 women who graduated from UCF this past spring.

A new study released by the American Association of University Women found student debt is harder for women to pay back one year after college graduation.

The study attributed low pay and gender education differences for why women had a harder time paying off their college debt.

UCF female students, such as communication and science disorders major Jyothis Philip, are graduating at an estimated $15,000 or more in debt.

"It's unfortunate in today's society," Philip said. "I was totally for women who wanted to be mothers, but we live in an individualistic society. We're not collectivistic, so there's no point in not giving women the same pay. They need it. They're living on their own."

The AAUW study states that even when you control occupation, college major, employment sector, region and other factors associated with pay, there are still factors that can't be explained as to why there is a gender pay gap. The study reported that the pay gap shrinks when you account for those factors, but it still doesn't make it equal between the two genders by 7 percent.

The AAUW, one of the leaders of pay gap studies, claimed that part of the unexplained factors is gender discrimination.

UCF Women's Studies professor Meredith Tweed agreed with this assertion. Tweed explained that factors such as the name of the person, the sound of their voice, whether they were wearing a wedding ring and general attitudes about gender and the gender division of labor seem to account for factors that can't be explained.

As of fall 2013, 1,216 UCF females have graduated with loans, with the average UCF student graduating with $20,886 in debt, said Grant Heston, associate vice president of communications and public affairs.

These female grads, the study states, tend to pay off more of their student debt than men in order to stay afloat financially. But due to lower pay and an increase of paying off student debt, women are less likely to buy cars, buy houses or travel. Because of student debt, the study states they are also more likely to delay marriage.

Even married women who have children and student loans opt out of the work force because they can't afford to send their children to day care, said Tweed.

Although there's been some improvement since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that women today make 77 cents less on every dollar a man earns. The DOL reported that for Hispanic and African-American women, the pay gap is even greater.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to combat gender discrimination.

This past April, the Fairness Paycheck Act, a bill co-sponsored by Bill Nelson, was brought through Congress to close any loopholes the Fair Pay Act had. The Senate refused to hear it on the floor.

Student debt and the gender pay gap not only affect students. They also impact members of the UCF faculty. Tweed, a mother of two, said she is still paying off student debt to this day.

"If you look at the higher education system, we still have a gender pay gap here," Tweed said. "It's not like it goes away. So yes, we're part of this same system."

In January, the UCF faculty negotiated to raise wages. They won a campaign to raise wages by 2 percent.

One of the things the AAUW did say women could control is the negotiation of their salaries.

"Salary negotiating is extremely important and it's crucial in the first few years obtaining a job," Tweed said. "Women need to learn to ask for what they want and be firm with their offer."

The study advised that taking a salary-negotiating workshop, being skeptical of salary offers and networking among peers before college graduation can aid women just a little bit more to battling student debt.

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