Because of her student loans, Michelle Fernie-Oley has put off children — for now.
Fernie-Oley, 33, and her 34-year-old husband, John, have been married for two years and live in New York.
She is a wedding planner and owns her own business. He is a stagehand. Together they make more than six figures but Fernie-Oley is also paying back a loan tab that's just under $80,000.
"We discuss kids constantly," she said, but "I can't imagine having a child when I have to pay over $600 per month just to my student loans."
"It's crippling," she said.
Student debt in America has skyrocketed in recent years and now stands at a record $1.5 trillion. It is a burden that is not shared equally.
Largely because women outnumber men in college these days and are more likely to pursue a graduate degree, they are the ones who end up with the bigger loan balances.
In fact, 42 percent of women have more than $30,000 in college debt, compared with 27 percent of men. Women also are two times more likely than men to think it will take more than 20 years to pay off their loans, according to market research firm ORC International.
Women also earn less over their lifetimes.