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Long Beach City College President Eloy Ortiz Oakley

The California Community College System Board of Governors on Monday chose Eloy Ortiz Oakley to lead its 113 community colleges.

Oakley, who has served as president of Long Beach City College since 2007, will become the chancellor on Dec. 19 and be the system's first Latino chancellor. He joined Long Beach in 2002. He's replacing interim Chancellor Erik Skinner, who replaced Brice Harris.

"I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead the largest and most diverse system of higher education in the nation," Oakley said during the board's meeting. "I'm so proud to have an opportunity to serve our California community colleges and I can't tell you how deeply I treasure our mission. I've been vocal in challenging our mission over the years … from the perspective that we can and should do more and take our place as the leading system of higher education in the state and in this nation."

Ortiz wants to particularly focus on helping black and Latino students who have been left behind in the economy by closing the income and opportunity gap. He also plans to put more focus on guided pathways to help students reach their educational goals faster.

During his tenure at Long Beach, Oakley helped establish the Long Beach College Promise, which guarantees students receive one year of free tuition at the college and preferred admission status to California State University after they transfer.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Oakley said he wants to promote a similar statewide version -- a California College Promise.

"When I talk about a college promise, it's more than tuition. While tuition is important, the cost of education is more than that," he said. "It's about building strong partnerships with our high schools, the University of California System, the California State University [System] and private universities and colleges."

Oakley envisions using those partnerships, a seamless pathway and a promise program to reduce the time to completion for students as a way of reducing the price students pay.

The president of the system's Board of Governors, Geoffrey Baum, said it selected Oakley because he has focused on getting results and is not afraid of taking risks.

"The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges has made a spectacular choice," said Ted Mitchell, under secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, in a statement. "Eloy Oakley is a proven leader of national stature. He has been a valued partner in the president's effort to provide free community college to qualified students. I look forward to working with him in his new role."

The California Community Colleges system is the largest in the country and serves about 2.1 million students. Skinner will continue serving as interim chancellor until Oakley leaves Long Beach.

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