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Our latest research revealed that student debt disproportionately affects females more than males. The Impact of University Debt Report found that university educated females earn less and have more HECS-HELP debt than their male contemporaries.

The Report surveyed more than 1,000 Australians who attended university, of which 51% were female, and discovered that:

  • A larger proportion of females who attend university currently (27%) have a HECS-HELP debt of more than $20,000 compared to the proportion of males (17%) with the same level of student debt.
  • While one in four (24%) males finish university with a HECS-HELP debt of between $20,000 – $50,000, one in three (32%) females incur as much debt.
  • 57% of males who attended university earn more than $70,000 per annum compared to 42% of university educated females.

Read the full Impact of University Debt Report.

Gender pay gap and the cost of raising a family

Research by Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has shown that gender pay gap remains a persistent and concerning issue in Australia. On average:

  • Australian women are paid 14% less than men.
  • Median undergraduate salaries for women are 4.9% less than for men.
  • The salary gap widens to 14.4% for postgraduate (coursework) graduates.
  • The full-time average weekly earnings difference between women and men is $253.60 with men’s full-time average weekly earnings set at $1,812 compared to $1,558.40 among women.

That’s not all. The federal government’s latest proposal to increase the cost of humanities and communications degrees can be expected to disproportionately affect females as they represent the bulk of enrolments in these courses. In fact, in 2018, females accounted for two-thirds of enrolments in these disciplines, and as a result of the changes could face a doubling of student debt.


Then there is the reality of many women bearing the financial brunt of joint life decisions such as having a child. More often than not, female employees take an extended break from their career or pull back to part-time employment to care for young children.


Futurity CEO Ross Higgins said, “Futurity’s Impact of University Debt Report highlights the growing gender pay gap, which is often exacerbated when females take career breaks to have children, raise a family, then return to work in a part-time role. It’s unacceptable that they are earning less and leave university with more HECS-HELP debt than their male contemporaries.”


Financial and social cost of a university education


The Report also highlighted the financial and social cost of a university education on many Australians.

Read How to avoid student debt impacting your life.


Continued interest in pursuing higher education


Despite the gender imbalance in income and debt and the financial and social impacts of university debt, it’s heartening to note that the majority of people who attend university (56%) are positive or neutral about the value of their university education.

With the cost of a university education exceeding $50,000 in many instances, to make the best of the situation, it is crucial that all Australians understand, the value of having dedicated savings and to fund university education so they can avoid large HECS-HELP debts impacting their financial wellbeing and their ability to achieve their goals later in life.


With education demanding a greater share of the family budget, coupled with the need to enable Australians to upskill and explore different career paths, it’s important to consider alternative financial products that will allow Australians to tax-effectively save and invest to accumulate funding required to support lifelong education objectives.


“Dedicated education savings and investment vehicles help cover the cost of university. Not only will they alleviate the financial and social burden later in life, but also enable Australians to upskill, learn new technologies and explore different career paths,” Ross said.


Find out about Futurity’s Education Bonds.


Footnote: (HECS-HELP provides eligible students with a loan to pay their student contribution for a Commonwealth-supported place in their chosen course.)