Richa Bhattarai Senior Associate

Richa Bhattarai works with Pew’s student loan initiative, focusing on its overall research objectives. She serves as the primary quantitative analyst for veterans’ higher education borrowing and supports the project’s work on default, repayment, and servicing. Before joining Pew, Bhattarai worked in the youth workforce development sector, supporting 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 in spite of a generous Post-911 GI Bill. This research informs 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. Brees holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master’s in political science from the University of Kansas, which he obtained 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.

Brian Denten Officer

Brian Denten works with Pew’s student loan initiative, focusing on student loan repayment and servicing policies. He previously worked on Pew’s financial security and mobility team. Before joining Pew, Denten interned with the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. Denten holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a master’s in public administration from American University.

Regan Fitzgerald Senior Manager

Regan Fitzgerald helps manage Pew’s student loan initiative, which seeks to improve the student loan repayment system, particularly for the borrowers most at risk of default and delinquency. Her work focuses on outreach and engagement.

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Shelbe Klebs Senior Associate

Shelbe Klebs works with Pew’s student loan initiative, building partnerships to improve the student loan repayment system. Before joining Pew, Klebs was an education policy adviser at Third Way, concentrating on higher education accountability and transparency policies. She also had internships with the Alliance for Excellent Education, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the College Board, and the National College Attainment Network. Klebs holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Central Michigan University and a master’s in public policy from George Washington University.

Ilan Levine Senior Associate

Ilan Levine works on Pew’s student loan initiative, advancing the team’s research, outreach, and engagement objectives. Levine facilitates the project’s work on student loan default while supporting other key priorities, including repayment and servicing. Before Pew, he worked in consulting and at postsecondary institutions. Levine holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Union College and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.

Phillip Oliff Senior Officer

Phillip Oliff is a leader on Pew’s student loan initiative, focusing 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 among 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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Spencer Orenstein Officer

Spencer Orenstein works with Pew’s student loan initiative, helping design and promote federal policy solutions to improve the student loan repayment system. He previously worked in Pew’s government relations department, supporting Pew’s family economic security portfolio. Before coming to Pew, he had roles as a legislative director, legislative assistant, legislative correspondent, and staff assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. Orenstein holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Florida.

Ama Takyi-Laryea Senior Manager

Ama Takyi-Laryea manages Pew’s student loan initiative, including leading the team’s research and formulating its methodology. With over 20 years of experience in research, monitoring, and evaluation, Takyi-Laryea focuses on developing and implementing the project’s rigorous and customized research agenda along with innovative translation and presentation of the team’s work to policy stakeholders. These efforts are critical to achieving the project's policy and research goals. She also manages the project’s financial resources and personnel.

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Lexi West Principal Associate

Lexi West works on Pew’s student loan initiative, translating the team’s student loan repayment research into policy objectives. She previously worked on Pew’s student borrower success and student loan research teams. Before joining Pew, West was a research analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, working on higher education finance and student loan servicing. She also held fellowships with the Podesta Group and with the Delaware General Assembly. West holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Delaware.