EBCLC Advocates for Student Debt Relief with Third Annual Black Women’s History Week

February 24, 2023

As a women of color-centered organization, The East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) advocates for total debt cancellation. Per our Women of Color-Centered Platform, EBCLC believes that total student debt cancellation will transform the lives of women of color and their networks. On average, Black women are the most educated demographic and carry the highest amount of student loan debt; twenty years after taking out student loans, the median Black borrower still owes 95%, while the median white borrower has paid off 94% (The Education Trust, 2022). 

Within our own organization, we have seen the impact of student debt on women of color staff. EBCLC’s Communications Officer, Nina Thiebert, HR Coordinator, Tamura Rosby, and Housing Program Coordinator, Leilani Brown, are just a few of the thousands of Black women who had no other option but to take on student debt in order to pursue an education. 

Thiebert graduated from Mills College with a Bachelor’s in Music Composition and Performance. As a young Black woman facing systemic social and economic barriers, she realized that in order to escape poverty, and to qualify for a job with benefits and livable wagesshe would have to pursue a bachelor's degree.  

“We have to work three times as hard to get half as much,” Thiebert said. “I knew I would need a degree to validate me in the professional world.” 

 For Rosby, who pursued a degree in Fashion Merchandising and a Paralegal Certificate while going to school as a mom, student debt causes a looming sense of anxiety and stress.  

“No one in my family was rich or anything, so there’s not much financial literacy in my family,” said Rosby. “It's depressing to be in debt. I want it to be gone.” 

All three women view education a pathway for freedom, and student debt as an unfortunate burden of that liberation.  Brown, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley's Social Welfare program, chose to pursue higher education to gain a broader perspective of the systemic injustices she faced in her life, and to better financially support her family.  

“We shouldn't have to worry about not meeting our basic needs in order to gain access to higher education,” explained Brown. “We shouldn't have to choose.” 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the federal government instituted Student Debt Relief Plan this February. This program could benefit 40 million borrowers, and allow all three women to have a portion or all of their debt forgiven, for a total of about $60,000. Without the burden of student debt, they look forward to financial flexibility, renewed mental stability, and hope for a more bountiful future. As a Women of Color-Centered organization and a proponent of total debt cancelation, EBCLC works toward a future where Black women will not have to choose between pursuing an education and their holistic well-being.