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‘Big Shoes to Fill’

‘Big Shoes to Fill’

Inside Higher Ed

Sara Weissman
June 17, 2022
California Community Colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley is stepping down to take on a new role as head of the College Futures Foundation, a private grant-making organization focused on boosting college completion among low-income and minority students in California.
Oakley announced Thursday that he will step down in August after leading the system for nearly six years. His tenure also included a five-month stint as a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona last year.
“Serving as chancellor of the community college system that gave me the opportunity to succeed in higher education has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” Oakley said in a press release. “I am so proud of what the Chancellor’s Office team has accomplished and of the amazing students that we serve.”
The California Community College system is the largest in the nation, with 116 colleges and more than 2.1 million students. The sprawling system encompasses rural and urban institutions and is regarded as something of a bellwether among community college leaders nationwide. Oakley, who previously served as superintendent and president of the Long Beach Community College District, got the attention of system leaders after instituting the Long Beach College Promise, a one-year free college program with a transfer pathway to the city’s Cal State campus, long before these programs swept the country.
Oakley is considered a thought leader on college affordability and equity and is known for raising the profile of the system by working with state lawmakers to craft higher ed policy. His tenure spanned some difficult times for community colleges, including during the presidency of Donald Trump, who sometimes dismissed their value, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent community college enrollments spiraling and disproportionately hurt Black and Latino and low-income students particularly, who are a large portion of community college student populations.
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