Eloy Oakley, the former superintendent-president of Long Beach City College and the current chancellor of the California Community Colleges, will temporarily take up a role in the Biden Administration beginning next week.
The chancellor will serve as a special adviser to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, providing advice on higher education policy from Monday, July 26, until sometime in the fall, California Community Colleges announced Monday, July 19.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve our country in this role,” Oakley said in a written statement, “and to have the chance to promote the importance of higher education for Americans of all backgrounds.”
The U.S. Department of Education could not immediately be reached to confirm the temporary assignment.
Oakley has led the state’s community college system — which serves 2.1 million students across 116 campuses — since 2016, focusing on equity and student success, among other initiatives.
The state system, for example, began receiving funding during the 2018-19 school year for the California College Promise, which provides free tuition for first-time students who take a full workload.
That program stems from the Long Beach College Promise, which Oakley helped create during his tenure in the city.
Long Beach city and education leaders created the College Promise in 2008 to guarantee access to higher education for every student that goes through the Long Beach Unified School District. It has been expanded in the years since.
Oakley served as superintendent-president of LBCC from 2007 to 2016, when he was appointed chancellor of the state community college system.
He began at City College in 2002 as an assistant superintendent.
“It’s great news that Chancellor Oakley is joining the Biden Administration,” Uduak-Joe Ntuk, president of the Board of Trustees for the Long Beach Community College District, said in a statement. “He’ll be able to share first hand the college promise successes we’ve had both in Long Beach and across the State of California.”
Oakley, a Los Angeles native, has said in previous interviews that he grew up in a typical Mexican American family, living in a working class neighborhood. There was no expectation that he would ever attend college.
But after spending four years as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, Oakley enrolled in Golden West Community College, in Huntington Beach, and they transferred to UC Irvine, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis and design, and a master’s degree in business administration.
Oakley worked at Oxnard College and Coast Community College before joining LBCC.
In 2018, Oakley told the Southern California News Group that graduating took a lot of mistakes, luck and years.
“I was the exception for someone coming from a community like mine,” he said at the time. “Those kids shouldn’t be the exception. They should be the norm.”
Oakley has made helping students of color and those form low-income families a priority during his tenure as an education leader.
As chancellor, California Community Colleges said in its Monday statement, Oakley has “helped lead transformational changes that place equity and student success squarely at the front of every decision affecting our colleges.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what, exactly, Oakley would do while in Washington, D.C., besides advising Cardona and the White House. But it appears, the chancellor’s focus will remain on equity and expanding higher education, at least according to statements from Oakley and Pamela Haynes, president of the state community college system’s Board of Governors.
“Chancellor Oakley’s temporary assignment to work as a special advisor to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is a win for California and the nation, providing more opportunity to improve higher education policy and help millions of American families,” Haynes said in her Monday morning statement. “Answering this call to service is a recognition of work our system is leading.”
Oakley, in his statement about the appointment, said he plans to work to support President Joe Biden’s education policies.
“President Biden has proposed an important and aggressive agenda to expand access to higher education for more Americans and to put a spotlight on our nation’s community colleges as key to a recovery with equity,” Oakley said. “The California Community Colleges has been a leader in democratizing access to higher education for learners of all backgrounds and I hope to leverage this experience in support of the President’s higher education agenda.”
Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales, who has a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara, will serve in the top spot until Oakley returns, California Community Colleges said in its announcement.
Gonzales has overseen operational and strategic policy planning for the Chancellor’s Office since 2017, and leads the state system’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work, the CCC announcement said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
Staff writer Rich Archbold contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register