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Meet the Team

Richa Bhattarai Associate

Richa Bhattarai is an associate with Pew’s student loan research project, focusing on veterans’ higher education borrowing. Before joining Pew, Bhattarai worked in the youth workforce development sector, where she supported high school students in gaining professional experience and building their post-high school plans. Bhattarai holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College and is pursuing a master’s in public policy from George Mason University.

Scott Brees Officer

Scott Brees leads Pew’s efforts to examine the scope and scale of veterans’ student loan debt as well as the factors that may explain student veteran borrowing. This research will inform policymakers and other stakeholders about the unique challenges that veterans face and help find evidence-based solutions to their high levels of education debt. Before joining Pew, Brees served for 20 years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master’s in political science from the University of Kansas before joining the Navy. After leaving the Navy, he earned a master’s in public policy and a certificate in survey methodology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ilan Levine Associate

Ilan Levine is an associate on Pew’s student loan research project, primarily supporting the team’s work on student loan default. Levine’s background is in research and consulting, where he has led a variety of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods projects. His focus is on postsecondary education policy, and he also has experience in higher education admissions, student advising, and supporting institutional leaders. Levine holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Union College and a master’s in education from Harvard University. He is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Phillip Oliff Project Director

Phillip Oliff directs Pew’s student loan research project that focuses on the challenges of and possible solutions for student loan defaults and veterans’ higher education debt. Before that, he led Pew’s work exploring the fiscal and policy relationships between the federal and state governments on a variety of topics, including how federal budget and tax changes could affect states, the role that federal and state finances play in higher education, and surface transportation.

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Ama Takyi-Laryea Manager

Ama Takyi-Laryea is a manager and research methodologist on the student loan research project and supports both the research looking at the experiences of student borrowers who have defaulted on their loans and Pew’s study to better understand the scope and scale of veterans’ higher education borrowing. Takyi-Laryea has nearly 20 years of experience in research, monitoring, and evaluation. In her previous work at various research consulting firms, she led teams on evaluation projects for a variety of clients, including the Department of Labor, Department of Education, United States Agency for International Development, and various state and local agencies. Takyi-Laryea holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with honors from Hood College and a master’s in survey methodology from the University of Maryland, College Park.