We’ve all heard about the gender gap when it comes to pay. Women with the same levels of skill, education and experience tend to make less than men do when by all rights they should be making exactly the same.

Why the gap exists is the subject of a lot of heated debate and has been for decades. Reasons run the gamut, but we think most experts in Illinois would agree that it tends to come down to sex discrimination in the workplace. Women tend to be undervalued and it plays out in lower pay, limited promotions, pregnancy bias and more.

But another possible trickle-down effect of that discrimination is one well understood by those with experience in helping individuals strapped with debt and in dire need of relief. What we are talking about is that bane of higher education — student loan debt.

According to the American Association of University Women, research suggests college loans remain a burden for women a lot longer than men — and the gender pay gap seems to be one of the biggest reasons why.

By the AAUW’s gauging, the past 20 years have proven to be exciting times for women in higher education. They have been more likely to go to college. They have done better in college than their male counterparts have and have been more likely to get their degrees than have their male classmates.

But because they earn less over time than their male peers, it often takes them longer to pay off their student loans. And as everyone knows, time is money. What this means is that student loans of equal value pose a potentially greater hardship for women than men.

The way things are right now, student loans are generally not dischargeable by filing for bankruptcy. There are exceptions if special hardship can be demonstrated.

But even if no discharge is possible right now, filing for Chapter 13 could be beneficial to you. To find out, it’s wise to check with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.