Females Face High Student Debt at Technical Schools

By Kirsten Baird
The Razorback Reporter

Female students who graduate from Bryan University, a technical school in Rogers, have an average of about $18,000 in student loans. This is $9,375 more than male graduates accrue, according to U.S. Department of Education student loan data from 2016-17.

Bryan has the largest gender gap in student loans in Arkansas, according to the College Scorecard, an Education Department database. An official at Bryan declined to comment. 

Furthermore, the data shows that this gap is almost $3,000 more than Lyon College, a private school with the second largest gender debt gap.

In contrast to technical schools, larger public universities such as the University of Arkansas have a gender debt gap of about $900, according to the College Scorecard student loan data.

The nature of technical schools differs from that of public universities in the sense that there are often fewer core classes and more hands-on experience related specifically to career training, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

When comparing the percentage of males to females for Bryan and UofA, there is a difference in the cost and disbursement of money.

According to the 2016-17 U.S. News & World Report for Education, Bryan University is about 30% female and 70% male. The average scholarship awarded at Bryan is $5,145, according to the U.S. News, which is significantly less than the average amount of tuition per year. 

The UA Enrollment report shows that the University of Arkansas is 52% female and 48% male.

Interviews with female students at the U of A show the range of experiences in financing college. Mallorie Spielmaker, 19, from Fayetteville, Arkansas is a second-year special education major at the University of Arkansas. She said she has the Arkansas Academic Challenge scholarship and a leadership scholarship offered through the university. 

“This year it was $4,000 for the whole year,” Spielmaker said. “The leadership is $1,000 per semester.”

After one and a half years in school, Spielmaker has had to borrow $15,000 in student loans. “By the time I graduate, it will probably be closer to $25,000,” Spielmaker said. 

Another UA student, senior Chloe Shreve, 22, is a political science major who has had to borrow money to pay for school even though she received federal grants. Shreve had a scholarship in her freshman year called the Freshman Success scholarship, granted to students whose parents didn’t attend college.

Mallorie Spielmaker, UofA sophomore, has over $15,000 in student debt. Photo by Kirsten Baird

Even with the scholarship money, Shreve said she still had to borrow in order to pay for school.

“I am pretty sure I am going to be graduating with around $10,000, because I get a lot from FAFSA,” Shreve said. The total Shreve receives in Federal Pell Grants from the university is about $3,500 per year, she said. 

Additionally, the length of time in school could have an impact on the amount of student loan debt that a student accrues.

At Bryan, the program that most female students choose is the Business Administration and Management with an emphasis in spa management, which is one of the longest programs at the school, according to the Bryan University academic report. The length of time attending school can tend to lead to higher student borrowing. Generally speaking, females are enrolled in school for a longer period of time, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Postgraduate Debt Remains a Concern for African American Students

Postgraduate Debt Remains a Concern for African American Students

Even with UA scholarships designated for minority students, some African American take out federal loans to cover the cost.

African Americans have the lowest average household income in Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census. Illustration by Hanna Ellington

By Hanna Ellington
The Razorback Reporter

Dylan Williams grew up in a military family, and he is preparing to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the U.S. Army, in part to help cover the financial burden of college.

Williams, set to graduate from the UofA in 2021, said joining the Army offers the potential benefit of cancelling the student debt he acquired in college.

“There’s a pretty hefty signing bonus, especially for the occupations that I’m looking at specifically in the Army,” Williams said. “When you reach a certain point in your military career, they have loan repayment programs that will allow you to have the government pay back your debt from school.”

Dylan Williams, 20, sitting outside on the University of Arkansas campus.
Dylan Williams, 20, plans to join the U.S. Army following graduation. Photo by Hanna Ellington

The University of Arkansas offers three scholarships specifically for students from underrepresented areas, which includes minority students. But, African-American students such as Williams still borrow more than other students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In Arkansas, African-American students borrow on average $14,694, nearly $3,000 more than white students’ average of $10,827, according to a 2015-16 study by the Department of Education. African-American students have the highest borrowing rate across the country with an average of 88% of students taking out loans, according to a 2015-16 Education Department study.

When taking out loans, some students don’t consider the future repercussions because of the need for money in the present, Williams said.

“I need this money now, and what am I supposed to do without it? I’m not looking at paying it back now,” Williams said.

Williams, 20, a public health major from Conway, received the Silas Hunt Scholarship, one of the three scholarships given to excellent students from underrepresented communities. “It was a pretty big help for me,” Williams said. He credits the U of A with “trying to do something about that problem by offering these scholarship opportunities for minorities, so they’re not faced with the cycle of not being able to afford college.” 

Other scholarships in this category include the Razorback Bridge and the University Enrichment scholarships. All three of these scholarships can total up to $48,000 for all four years, according to the UA scholarship website.

“This allows a broader section of the population from Arkansas to attend the university,” said Denise Burford, associate director of financial aid. “Anytime a student gets a scholarship, they’re more likely to attend. It shows interest in the student.”

For Yves Manzi, 20, a civil engineering major from Rwanda, scholarships were a defining reason for attending the UofA, he said. In addition to assistance from his parents, Manzi supports himself through being a research assistant for the Engineering Department.

“Some of the college students that come here, maybe their parents can afford to pay half of it or something like that,” Manzi said. “But, most of the black students that come here, most of their parents don’t have the money to support half of the debt that they get.”

Yvez Manzi, 20, studying in the civil engineering lounge.
Yvez Manzi, 20, studies in the Civil Engineering lounge with fellow engineering students. Photo by Hanna Ellington

The average household income for black families was $38,731 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. White families earned $14,000 more in 2017, with an average income of $52,768.

Minority students make up 20.5% of students at the UofA, with black students making up 4.4% of the student body, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Only three scholarships are offered specifically to them. 

The UofA is working to assist students by educating them about loans, Burford said. One of the ways is financial counseling through the Office of Financial Aid.

“We try to give options other than borrowing and explain the long term implications of borrowing,” Burford said.

Educating students on their college financing options could help students be more prepared, Williams said.

“I was lucky enough to have a college prep class in high school, and one of the assignments we had was to pick three colleges that we were planning on going to and then figure out the cost of attendance for a school year. I knew how much it would cost coming up here before freshman year,” Williams said. “In terms of finding out how the loans work, that was on me to figure out.”

In addition to his class, Williams’ father also taught him about loans. Williams is also receiving benefits, like an additional scholarship, from his father’s former employment in the military.

While Williams is certain on his choice to enter the military after leaving the UofA, Manzi is worried about the job prospects following graduation. The possibility of not getting hired because of one’s race is a concern for some students, Manzi said.

“I’m not saying that all companies are like this, but sometimes it’s hard to get a job when you’re a black student,” he said.

Since 2014, Arkansas men aged 18 to 24 have had the highest rate of poverty for men, with nearly 32,000 men living in poverty in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Debt for Arkansas graduates is slowly rising each year, according to the Department of Education. Illustration by Hanna Ellington

What Students Should Know About Loans

What Students Should Know About Loans

With tens of millions of students in debt and the debt total climbing, it is important to break down different types of loans and the problems they can cause.

Avery Nihill waited until her senior year to take out a student
loan. Photo by Parker Tillson

By Parker Tillson
The Razorback Reporter

Avery Nihill, a 21-year-old senior studying environmental soil and water sciences, was careful not to get caught in the trap of student debt.
“My parents kind of discouraged me from doing it,” Nihill said. “But this is my last semester and it’s a loan that I took out so that I could finish without any worries.” 

Some incoming college students blindly sign up for student loans without realizing what kind of loan they are receiving and the financial issues it can cause. Nihill, a San Antonio, Texas, native, was much more careful, and waited until her senior year to take out a $2,750 subsidized loan in order to pay for school. 

Students graduate from the UofA with an average of a little more than $22,000, but Nihill is projected to graduate with far less than that. 

There are several loans that students use to pay for college. Loans can differ by number of dollars, interest, whose name the loan is under and more. 

Subsidized and unsubsidized loans are the two most common types of direct loans, and the key difference between the two is the timing of interest accrual. Subsidized loans are granted based on financial need. Students must pay off the loan, but not the interest that it has accrued during their time in school. 

Unsubsidized loans require students to pay off the loan, including the interest amassed during college, and they are not granted due to financial need. Students are granted these loans more often than subsidized loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Students are assigned a subsidized or unsubsidized loan based on their estimated family contribution, a measure of their family’s financial strength, which is calculated by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

“Most students who are coming to college have enough means through their family to run that estimated family contribution up too high to get a subsidized loan,” said Denise Burford, associate director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at the UofA.

The Parent PLUS loan is the third type of direct loan, which is under the parent’s name and allows the family to take out a larger loan.

Denise Burford, associate director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, at the University of Arkansas. Photo by
Parker Tillson.

As of 2019, more than 42 million loan recipients have racked up almost $1.5 trillion of student loan debt in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Education. More than 34 million of borrowers and $1.2 trillion of the debt is from direct loans, money that comes from the U.S. Department of Education.

The giant debt can be attributed to several things, but one reason is a rise in tuition costs. 

Since 2008, in-state tuition has gone up more than 42%, and out-of-state tuition has risen more than 39%, according to data from 381 universities given to U.S. News and World Report.

“School just costs a lot more,” Burford said. 

Some students defray the increasing tuition by obtaining grants, money given to students directly from the federal government that students do not have to pay back. 

Nihill received a Pell Grant worth a little more than $4,000, which she qualified for because she comes from a family of seven and demonstrated financial need. 

“It helped a lot my freshman year,” Nihill said. “We didn’t know if I would be able to stay here because I’m from out-of-state and school is expensive, but because I got the Pell grant I was able to come back.” 

Pell Grants are given to students who have an estimated family contribution of less than $6,000, according to Burford. The amount you receive depends on your school, your status as a student, and how long you plan to stay. 

Students can also receive a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), which is worth less than a Pell grant. The UofA disburses more than $1 million more than any other Arkansas school in FSEOG grants. 


Women Face Higher Student Loan Debt, Workplace Challenges

By Kirsten Baird, Coleman Bonner, Abby Zimmardi 
The Razorback Reporter

The average female student loan debt in Arkansas is $10,051, which is about $1,250 more than the average male student debt in 2016-17, according to a College Scorecard study, a U.S. Department of Education database.

Juliet Sittler, a UofA junior majoring in accounting, has around $19,000 in student loans from her first three years of college, she said. She intends on taking out more loans for graduate school and hopes to pay them off in less than five years. 

Sittler, 20, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she’s entering a field dominated by men. “I would say that I’m not the only female, but there are way more guys than girls in all my classes,” Sittler said. Enrollment in the Walton College of Business in 2017 was 64% male and 35% female, according to the UofA Student Degree, Enrollment and Demographics.

On top of the gender disparity in student loans, some female students are entering professions with a significant gender imbalance, and they may not be paid as much as their male counterparts.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the top male-dominated fields are civil engineering, which is 14% female; chemical engineering, 18% female; and electrical engineering, 9% female. In each of these fields, women earn only about 89% of what men do, according to a study by the Department of Labor. 

Summer Smith, a junior biomedical engineering student, said she is aware of her place as a minority within her field, yet she feels it could be used as an advantage.
“I think it’s kind of cool because you get a lot of different opportunities that women that are in a female-dominated field don’t have,” Smith, 20, from St. Louis said. “Since people are looking for women engineers, I think it really makes me stand out.” According to the UA Office of the Registrar, the engineering student body is 76% male and 24% female.

UA senior Katharine Jovicich, 23, from Dallas, who is majoring in chemical engineering, said she has acquired over $100,000 in student loan debt. Jovicich will be paying off her loans with no help from her family, besides living at home rent free, she said. 

“My goal is three years, but I think I could pay the minimum payment and it goes maybe 10-20 years,” Jovicich said. “But I just want to be out of it and so I will live very simply and still at home and get all of that paid off.”

The gender imbalance in engineering is obvious even to the men. “In school, engineering is definitely male-dominated. I’d say at least 80% male, and in certain disciplines it was even more so,” said Jeremey Porterfield, 32, from Bryant, Arkansas. “You feel it in the culture of the company.”

Portfield graduated from the UofA with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was awarded about $4,000 in scholarships during his time on the Fayetteville campus. He currently works as a project manager for Garver Engineers, but is still paying off his $40,000 in student loans. 

Female Face Higher Student Loan Debt Than Men in Arkansas

Female Student Loan Debt Exceeds Male Debt in Arkansas

Throughout Arkansas, females graduate from college with more student debt than men. Lack of scholarships and the gender pay gap contribute to this problem.

By Kirsten Baird, Coleman Bonner and Abby Zimmardi
The Razorback Reporter

Female students graduate from college with an average $1,165 more  student loan debt than male students within colleges and universities in Arkansas, according to an analysis of 2016-17 federal student loan data.

Priscilla DuFresne is paying for college on her own, so she is taking out the maximum amount of loans possible each year. Photo by Abby Zimmardi

College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education database, showed the median debt for female college graduates was an average $10,029 in 2016-17 versus $8,864 for male graduates in Arkansas.

The gap between female and male student loan debt held true for the 2015-16 academic year, when female graduates faced an average $1,333 in more debt than male students, according to College Scorecard.

The reality of today’s competitive workforce is that a degree is required for almost every career, and many studies show that the pay gap between males and females still exists. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women only made 49% of what men earned over a 15 year time span. Thus, upon graduation, it is hard for females to pay off their loans quickly.
“I just know of a lot of guys who have their entire school paid for by going here and I don’t know of many girls really,” said Madison Spyres, a fifth-year music education and exercise science major at the UofA. “It’s a little strange that females don’t have more scholarships.” 
Spyres, 22, has been taking out loans since her sophomore year, she said. The first semester she took out $2,000 and every year after that she has taken out $7,500.
Priscilla DuFresne, a University of Arkansas junior who is majoring in graphic design, has felt the impact of student loans. DuFresne, who is paying for college on her own, said she needs to take out the maximum amount of loans possible each year in order to pay for school.
“Last year I had around $13,000 but I know I had to take out loans this year so it’s probably around $20,000,” DuFresne, 20, said. In addition to borrowing loans for tuition, DuFresne said she uses loans in order to pay for art supplies for classes.

Top 10 schools where female student debt exceeds male student debt

Luke Molina, a Dallas resident and senior business student at the UofA, faces large college expenses since he pays out-of-state tuition. However, Molina says he is confident in his ability to pay off the loans following his graduation because of the resources and networking he’s acquired in his time in school.

“It was a little hard to decide to take out loans,” Molina, 21, said. “But I had to do what I had to do, it was either that or go home.” 

Top 10 schools with higher male student loan debt

Kristie Spielmaker, a UA alumni and current Director of Supply Chain Flow Performance at Walmart, had an academic trajectory that was different from the usual trend. She started attending the university after she was already married and had children.
Spielmaker said she received about $4,000 per year from the UofA, a total of $10,000 over the course of two years through the Brandon Burlsworth scholarship, and about an additional $2,000 per year through Walton College. This totaled about $34,000 from 2008-2012.

“I had a lot of student loans, as we used them for living expenses since we had a family and I was not earning an income while in school,” Spielmaker said. Even now, with a good job and good scholarships, Spielmaker still has about $20,000 worth of student loans to pay off.