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Student loan debt to be discussed at AAUW session

SOU’s Kristen Gast to examine student loan issues in AAUW program

Here are two frightening numbers. Right now around 43.2 million borrowers in the United States hold about $1.73 trillion in outstanding student loans. The scale of those loans – and the growing share of borrowers who fail to repay – will be huge challenges for society and for individual borrowers, especially women.

The Ashland Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will host a public discussion of “The Student Debt Crisis: Unequal Impacts on Women,” on Sat., Nov. 20, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, via Zoom. The guest speaker is SOU Financial Aid Director Kristen Gast. She joined the university in 2017 and oversees all programs involving scholarships, grants, loans, work study, summer aid and veterans aid.

To register for Saturday’s free session, visit the AAUW Ashland website https://ashland-or.aauw.net.

Gast has worked in financial aid for 15 years, starting as Federal Work Study student in the aid office at her undergraduate school, Austin Peay State University. She continued her career in the community college systems in Georgia and Wyoming, then moved to the university system. A member of the Oregon Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and a U.S. Navy Veteran. Gast is also a competitive women’s bodybuilder.

“Women begin their careers earning less – and owing more – than men do, and that sets them up for a lifetime of greater economic insecurity,” the AAUW national website said. “It makes it harder for them to build an emergency fund, make a down payment on a home, start a business, save for retirement and do all the things necessary to be on sound financial footing.”

AAUW is a nationwide network of more than 170,000 members and supporters, 1,000 branches and 800 college and university partners. It is the nation’s leading voice in advancing gender equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research.

The Ashland Branch is a community of like-minded people who work to influence public policy, improve educational opportunities, award scholarships to students at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College, and offer lifelong learning opportunities.