So what’s a young person to do? Go to college, get a degree, get a better job, but be forever saddled by student loan debt? Or enter the working world without a degree but without student loan debt? Seems like a catch-22. But the decision is actually even more complicated by the fact that women throughout the country, including in New Jersey, generally earn less than men in the workforce, regardless of the extent of their education. So is the debt from student loans worth it? And if it is, what debt relief is available to help female graduates manage their entire debt load?

First, let’s look at the big picture. It isn’t breaking news that, on the average, women make less than men in the workforce. Even though studies show that the gap is smaller among recent college graduates, they also show that the gap grows larger over the working years for a few reasons: babies and marriage, and the discrimination that women face because they are mothers and married. One study shows that because the woman often makes less, a couple is more likely to relocate for the man’s career, often causing a disruption in the female’s career path.

And the student loan debt may affect women who are married even more in their overall financial picture. When spouses combine their incomes and debts, it will affect whether they are able to buy a home and the amount of mortgage debt they can handle. Large student loan balances can significantly impact the debt-to-income ratio factored into mortgage loan qualifications.

So, until the wage gap can finally be eliminated, what can women do to manage their overall financial picture while coping with student loan debt? At this point, student loan debt is not typically eligible for discharge in bankruptcy, although there have been some recent exceptions. But bankruptcy can eliminate debt other than student loan obligations and provide a fresh start that can make the student loan debt load easier to manage, while also freeing up other income to meet other financial challenges. Bankruptcy is not the answer for everyone, but it is a viable option in some situations. Those who are struggling with student loan debt may benefit from legal financial counsel.

Source: SCPR.org, “Student debt weights down women more: Blame the wage gap,” Jessica Glazer, April 6, 2014