California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said today that he will retire Sept. 1 after three years as head of the country's largest higher education system.
Scott, 78, caps off a lengthy 58-year career that included 12 years serving as a state senator and assemblymember representing Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank through 2008. Scott also served as president of Pasadena City College and Cypress College, and was a distinguished professor of higher education at Pepperdine University. He became chancellor of the state's community colleges Jan. 1, 2009.
"I greatly enjoyed my work, but I knew that this was a tail end of my career," Scott told KPCC today. "...I have a lot of things I will enjoy doing in retirement, of course [spending time with] my family, but also doing a little writing, occasional speaking engagements and some other things...I was honored to be the head of the community college system, and I hope I've served them well."
The California Community Colleges is the nation's largest higher education system with 112 campuses serving 2.6-million students statewide. During Scott's tenure as its chancellor, he was forced to deal with a shrinking budget that led to reduced course offerings and lengthy waiting lists. The system lost nearly 300,000 students over those three years, because it was unable to accommodate them.
"The biggest regret I have is that we were living in a time in which the state was cutting back on our resources," Scott said. "We suffered some very severe cuts, and that just means we’ve been unable to serve all the students who really wanted to come to the community colleges...It’s been a 13 percent cut with perhaps an additional cut at the end of this year. We just couldn't serve as many students as we'd like to."
Scott will not retire until Sept. 1 when the legislative session ends in order to ensure there is time for the Board of Governor's to select a predecessor and also so that he can finish his work on bills related to the board's Student Success Task Force. After about a year of study, the task force released a report in January with 22 recommendations to streamline the path to student graduation, certification and transfers; the reforms were overwhelmingly approved by the governing board.
"We have a couple of bills we're sponsoring that have to do with our student success task foce that we think is very important, that we think will help students be more successful in community colleges," Scott said. "And one of my jobs as head of the community colleges system is to certainly be an advocate. I've done that. I've gone into many legislators' offices and talked to the governor and others to really push the cause of the community colleges, and I really want to continue to do that until the legislative session ends."
Scott said he was most proud of the task force's work as well as his role in the passing of Senate Bill 1440, the "Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act," in 2010, which simplified the transfer process between the California Community Colleges system and the Cal State University system.
Scott, who has two grown daughters living in the L.A.-area, said that after he retires he and his wife, Lacreta, will return from Sacramento to live in their Altadena home, where he moved to in 1988 when he because president of Pasadena City College.
"I am fortunate to have very good health, and I've really had a wonderful career," Scott said. "...I don't plan to just sit in my chair and watch TV, I've got a lot of things I'd like to do, but I won't be doing it 9 to 5 as I have in the last 58 years."