HLA Staff, Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield

Managing Director, Policy & Research


Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield is a proven advocate with over 20 years of leadership in developing and expanding state and federal policies to increase postsecondary access and success for students with low incomes and students of color. She is a champion for today’s students, focused on changing postsecondary and social policies to increase racial equity. Amy Ellen is a strategic thinker who can translate innovative social and postsecondary practice into state and federal policies and vice versa.

Prior to joining Higher Learning Advocates, Amy Ellen was a Senior Director for Advocacy and Policy at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Previously, Amy Ellen was a Senior Fellow at National Skills Coalition (NSC) where she was the organization’s expert on state higher education policy development and implementation. She led NSC’s work on quality assurance for non-degree credentials and worked with state governor’s offices and higher education and workforce agencies to increase the number of individuals with high-quality credentials.

Amy Ellen also served as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy for over 15 years, where she analyzed and advocated for federal and state higher education policies to better serve adults with low incomes and others, including workers, parenting students, and students of color. She developed and advocated for a comprehensive student aid framework that combines financial aid, public benefits, and refundable tax credits to increase postsecondary access for low-income students. She directed the Benefits Access for College Completion initiative to increase access to public benefits and financial aid for low-income students at community and technical colleges across the country. She also spearheaded the Center for Law and Social Policy’s Higher Education Act reauthorization work, championing a range of policies to support today’s students.

Amy Ellen holds an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree in divinity from Emory University, with a focus on social and economic ethics. She lives in Brooklyn where she enjoys hiking and camping with her family.

You can find Amy Ellen on Twitter at @aedukehighered.