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Student Defense Partners with The George Washington University, Columbia University to Launch Higher Education Research Initiative

August 3, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: | 202-734-7495

Student Defense Partners with The George Washington University, Columbia University to Launch Higher Education Research Initiative
PEER Project aims to drive evidence-based research, make policy recommendations to expand equity and accountability

Today, Student Defense, along with The George Washington University and Columbia University, launched the Postsecondary Equity & Economics Research (PEER) Project. PEER will unite university economists and academics with higher education lawyers to identify and support research efforts aimed at promoting equity and accountability in higher education.

The academic side of the PEER Project will be led by GW Professor of Public Policy, Public Administration, and Economics Stephanie Cellini. Student Defense Vice President for Policy Alex Elson, along with Student Defense President Aaron Ament, will lead the PEER Project’s legal policy efforts to promote economic mobility and racial equity in American higher education.

“Ensuring government accountability and protecting students and borrowers from being defrauded and disenfranchised is the cornerstone of our mission,” Ament said. “We look forward to partnering with Columbia University and George Washington University to develop policy research and recommendations to protect students from unaffordable student debt and achieve their higher education goals.”

The project will establish a cohort of scholars and attorneys to identify policy questions and disparities in higher education and to support high-quality research by a diverse group of academics and legal experts to address these issues. A number of leading academics including Columbia University’s Judith Scott Clayton and Veronica Minaya, Vanderbilt University’s Lesley Turner, the University of Kentucky’s Rajeev Darolia, and Southern Methodist University’s Dominique Baker will also contribute to the project. Through their work, the group hopes to build a repository of evidence-based research and develop a policy agenda that primarily addresses equity and accountability through underused regulatory authority and civil rights law.

“Expanding equity in higher education is critical to the social and economic health of our nation, especially during our recovery from the pandemic,” Cellini said. “State and federal policymakers must do more to ensure institutional accountability while also enhancing equity. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with my colleagues at Columbia and Student Defense to generate new scholarship and policy recommendations that promote student success.”

To learn more about the PEER Project, visit