Toni Airaksinen writes for the Martin Center about a gender disparity in college student loans.

Every year, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) releases a new report illustrating how women are disproportionately impacted by student loan debt. The average woman graduates with $2,739 more in federal loans than the average male graduate, they argue. But while suggestions to fix this gender debt gap have typically targeted lawmakers, students are left fumbling in the dark.

When college students leave campus through graduation or dropping out, the debt they incurred hangs heavy over their heads, especially for young women. The average woman will graduate with $21,619 in loans according to the AAUW, but that number is likely too low because it does not include private loans and credit card debt.

So, what’s a young woman to do?

While the AAUW points to policy proposals such as expanded Pell Grants and equal pay legislation, women likely won’t be helped by these proposals anytime soon. Instead of waiting for government help, there are a few things college students can do to fight back. Small decisions can turn into big savings over four years.

1. Start by choosing an affordable school.

According to the College Board, the average public university will cost students nearly $57,000 over four years. Private universities typically have a higher price tag: roughly $105,000. But depending on your family’s financial situation, the private school might be less expensive. …

… 2. Work during the school year and summer break.

Though the extra $2,739 in federal loans for women seem small, the AAUW warns that women take longer to pay back their loans, and default at a higher rate than men do. But over four years, that $2,739 gap amounts to $684 per year, or less than $2 per day. The average woman, earning $8 an hour, could pay off the gap with about two hours of work per week. And if she works more during college and puts that money toward loans instead of clothes or partying, she could graduate owing even less. …

… 3. Spend money cautiously.

There’s mixed evidence over whether women spend more than men. But it’s easy to understand how young women in college might be likely to spend more than men—at least on some things.