The board of governors for the California Community Colleges on Monday picked the president of Long Beach City College, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, to lead the 113-campus California Community College system as its new chancellor.
“In Oakley we see a change agent – someone whose relentless focus on student success will help more students obtain certificates and degrees or transfer to four-year institutions on time,” said Board President Geoffrey Baum in a written statement.
For nine years Oakley has led Long Beach City college as president, but his connection to community colleges is also personal. He attended Golden West College before transferring to U.C. Irvine, where he earned a B.A. and a masters degrees. Two of his children attend community college and one has graduated from a community college.
As chancellor, Oakley said he wants campuses to better serve the state’s black and Latino students.
“We’ve done a wonderful job of building guided pathways to the prison system for our students. We need to exert just as much effort, if not more, to building pathways to a college credential,” Oakley said.
He says he’d like to do that the same way he did at Long Beach City College, where he helped create the Long Beach College Promise in 2008. The initiative gives high school students academic and other support to enroll in community college then transfer to the area's California State University campus.
Oakley said he also wants to make it easier for campuses to create new classes that train students for jobs created by the growing technology sector.
“Our economy no longer has a spot for those who lack skills," he said. "Our economy discriminates against those individuals who lack skills. It is our job, it is our privilege to step in and build that bridge for those students who have lacked those skills."
His new job comes with different responsibilities and powers. Policies such as faculty pay and what classes are offered to students are set at the local level by the presidents and boards of trustees of the various community colleges.
By contrast, the state chancellor’s office sets some system-wide policies and uses the power of the bully pulpit to influence funding for the system. For example, Oakley said he would like to lobby to raise state per pupil funding for California community college students, which is about $6,000 each year.
Oakley will take over as California Community Colleges chancellor in December. His yearly salary will be $280,000. His four-year contract includes a $15,000 yearly bonus as an incentive to stay in office. A spokesman for the chancellor’s office said that bonus would have to be returned if Oakley leaves before his contract is completed.