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Women own nearly two-thirds of nation’s student loan debt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Research released Monday shows women are saddled with nearly two-thirds of the nation's $1.3-trillion student loan debt.

The American Association of University Women says more women are enrolling in higher education institutions than ever before, but they are also are borrowing more to pursue their dreams.

"We are always taught that education is the key," said Tennille Benton, who's struggling to repay about $20,000 in student loans. "It's difficult when you say that education is the key and then you try to get an education and then you are in all of this debt and you still don't come out educated."

The report says it takes women a lot longer to pay off their student loans, compared to men in the same situation.

According to the group, black and Hispanic women often face bigger hurdles overcoming student loan debt because they tend to borrow more and are likely to make less money than men once they enter the workforce.

Benton also has an outstanding bill for about $3,000 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. It's not covered by loans, and she can't complete her degree until that's paid.

"It’s almost like, do I pay my car note or pay for my student loan?" Benton said. "The average is roughly $200 to $300 a month to repay a student loan payment. That’s mostly going to interest, not going to the loan balance."

More than half of all college graduates have financed their education with student loans.

Benton said she often chooses making her car payment over paying back a student loan, because she said she needs her car to help her work her way into a better job that may eventually allow her to get out of debt.

The American Association of University Women is pushing for more grants, programs, and other resources to keep college accessible for those who have the most to gain.