WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Women, particularly blacks and Hispanics, take a longer time to pay off education loans compared to male counterparts due to a gender pay gap, a new study found.
A report from the American Association of University Women found women one year after college graduation and working full time are paid, on average, 82 percent of what their male counterparts are paid. That translates into women taking a longer time to pay off student loans, racking up more interest and a higher debt load during that period.
The organization also found in a review of Department of Education data more women than men -- 53 percent compared to 39 percent -- are contributing to their student loan payments, eroding at the abililty to save for retirement, a car or other investments.
"The gap in debt repayment may also make it more difficult for women to take risks that could pay off in the long run, like changing job sectors or starting a business, further contributing to the pay gap as women move through the workforce," the organization found.
The study found that between 2009 and 2012 male college graduates from the 2007-08 school year paid an average of 44 percent of their student debt. Women in the same group paid off 33 percent. Black and Hispanic women in the same group paid off less than 10 percent of their debt.
"For women with college degrees, especially black and Hispanic women, the gender pay gap means that student loan debt may hang over their heads for many more years to come," the report said.
Outstanding student loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion, with about $103 billion of that in default. Many student borrowers who recently left school struggle to repay loans due to under- or unemployment.