Gender, Student Loans, and Graduation: The Story of a College Degree
February 24, 2013

Gender, Student Loans And Graduation: The Story Of A College Degree

Recently, the Ohio State University released interesting information about graduation rates, student loans, and gender. According to the study conducted by Rachel Dwyer, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, Randy Hodson, professor of sociology at Ohio State University, and Laura McCloud, associate professor of sociology at Pacific Lutheran University, “Women will go deeper in debt to finance college because they need the degree more than men if they want to earn a good living. Men will drop out at lower levels of debt.”

Their findings showed that at about $12,000 (USD), some male students will drop out because they can find good-paying work in construction or manufacturing or such. Women do not have the same access to those jobs, so the researchers speculate that they will take on more debt in order to graduate with a college degree and find a stable, good-paying profession.

For these women, student loans actually help them to finish their degrees. The student loans allow women to obtain their degrees and certification so that they may then move into higher paying jobs and positions likely to be stable and have plenty of room for upward mobility.

The men who drop out before completing their matriculation seem to make the short-sighted decision. Though they may be able to make equivalent money to the men who complete their degrees while in their twenties, by the time men reach middle age, those with a degree make almost $20,000 (USD) more than those without. This should at least make people think twice about dropping out.

The problem, though, is that too many students rely on student loans just to survive during college. For many, the student loans pay not only tuition, fees, and books but also bills. Without student loans, many women and men could not even begin to consider a college degree. And frankly, many do not consider how they will pay those loans back.

Too many people are starting their lives out with thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. To be able to attain the professional position they want, they have to add to their debt. Then they have the rest of their lives to worry about paying that debt back. It is a catch-22 situation. They need to obtain the degree to succeed in their fields of interest, yet they can only pay for the degree by accruing so much debt that it overwhelms their lives.

I am glad to see that student loans have played a role in helping women obtain their degrees. I am also glad to see the tenacity of some students. Their willingness to take on debt for their goals and for their degree should inspire all of us, but I am saddened by this state of affairs.

No, I do not believe that everyone should go to college because college is not for everyone, but I do believe that anyone who wants to, and has the intellectual ability, should go to college. The fact that many of these individuals must accrue that much in loan monies is counterintuitive to an educated America. It is good that we have a path for those who want to navigate higher education, but it just seems like there must be a better way than debt.

Until we find that better way, though, students should not give up. They should keep matriculating and using those student loans to help them achieve their academic and life goals. Women and men should not settle for what seems easiest right now, but should think more into the future.

If a job seems to pay a lot right now, even if one does not have a college degree, it is likely that same job will pay just about the same amount 20 years from now. So, before dropping out and thus keeping your student loans low, think about the future. Do the research and see if that money-making construction job is really worth your education. If it is, then go for it; but if it is not, then take out those loans to help you graduate.

Image Credit: hxdbzxy / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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