Skip to main content
Amari Student Debt
Blog December 13, 2023

The Weight of Student Debt: Amari’s Story

Amari Student Debt

The majority of my career has been centered around advocacy, and in more recent years, I've shifted my efforts to focus primarily on student debt relief for loan borrowers in America.

Many Americans, including myself and my family, have become part of the broken system of debt, putting our financial freedom at risk to attain an education. All of our stories are unique, tragic, and powerful in their own ways. Here is mine.

My name is Amari Fennoy. I hail from East Saint Louis, IL, where the yearly median household income barely scrapes between $17,000 and $26,000. Despite the financial odds, I earned my Bachelor's degree from Spelman College, an HBCU, and a Master's degree from the University of Missouri, accumulating a hefty $64,000 in student loan debt. That's not the end of the story – my mother carries a Parent Plus loan of $140,000, with $30,000 in interest, ballooning our combined student loan debt to a staggering $234,000.

My journey through Spelman highlighted the financial struggles many have faced, which has forced some students to leave due to economic constraints. HBCUs like Spelman are often burdened with the reality of less funding compared to PWIs, making my education possible only through my mother's sacrifices.

Today, I'm staring at a $500 monthly student loan payment under the SAVE Program, on top of inflated living expenses, in addition to my mother's $1,200 monthly repayment for my education. The weight becomes overwhelming. It's heartbreaking to see my mother, a single mother, who's devoted nearly three decades to federal service, grapple with such immense financial burdens. Programs like SAVE have fallen short in supporting parents who've safeguarded their children from predatory loans.

Growing up, I believed education was an escape from poverty. However, that dream hasn't materialized for many in the Black community, especially Black women, holding two-thirds of trillions in student loan debt. We must break the cycle of debt that traps Black communities. Student loan forgiveness isn't just relief; it's a necessary step toward enabling homeownership, entrepreneurship, and wealth accumulation for us.

I earnestly hope that my story, one of millions, influences change that supports the 40 million borrowers nationwide grappling with student debt.

Amari Fennoy
Training and Programs Manager 
NAACP Youth & College


This summer, the United States Supreme Court squashed the anticipation and plans of millions of student loan borrowers across the country when it decided that the Biden Administration's student debt cancellation plan was unconstitutional. While repayments resumed in October, work continues to find relief for those borrowers.

The Department of Education hosted negotiated rulemaking sessions this year to begin the process of developing a set of recommendations for comprehensive student debt relief. Throughout the three-month-long negotiation process, Black borrowers shared their personal stories to help highlight the barriers of Parent Plus loans, debt-to-income ratio, the HBCU experience, and how Pell Grants provide limited support in making college affordable.