Yan Cao is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation where she works on higher education policy with a focus on expanding opportunity, reducing inequality, and ensuring fair outcomes for students.

Yan Cao worked previously as a Skadden Fellow at the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, representing students defrauded by for-profit colleges, and as an attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Services, representing low-income families with predatory student loan debt. In addition to serving thousands of students in individual and collective actions, Yan has co-chaired the Student Loan Working Group at New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL), and led trainings on the legal rights of student loan borrowers. Yan has researched issues at the intersection of racial justice, economic mobility, and fair lending in work with diverse organizations, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the ACLU and NYCLU, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

A former law clerk to Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Yan received her J.D. from NYU Law School, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Law Scholar and Editor-in-Chief of the NYU Law Review. Yan is also a graduate of Stanford University and Simon’s Rock College of Bard. She is a product of public education systems in Arizona, Ohio, and Florida, and a beneficiary of many programs providing financial aid in higher education.