Oakley, headed to nonprofit, departs community college system
California Community Colleges are hanging out the “help wanted” sign, as Chancellor Eloy Oakley steps down from the helm of the country’s largest college system to head an education advocacy group.
The Community College Board of Governors will name a temporary replacement for Oakley next month and then begin what is expected to be a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
“I’m sure they will cast as wide a net as possible,” he said.
He has been credited with a range of reforms across the system, bringing fresh focus to challenges like housing instability and food insecurity
Oakley has served the last six years as head of the massive system of 73 districts, 116 colleges and 1.8 million students.
He will remain chancellor until August, when he takes his new position as president and CEO of College Futures Foundation, an equity advocacy group “dedicated to ensuring that more students who reflect California’s diversity can complete their postsecondary journeys and access the opportunity for a better life.”
“The College Futures Foundation is focused on the things I care about,” he said, “which is primarily creating better access.”
In his new role, he hopes to leverage productive relationships with the state’s other college leaders to “align priorities” of access and equity.
Oakley took several months off last year to serve as an education policy adviser in the Biden Administration. He has been credited with a range of reforms across the system, bringing fresh focus to challenges like housing instability and food insecurity.
Those successes, he said, made it easier to move on.
“The system has never been in a better place,” he said. “The relationship with the governor and the legislative leaders has never been stronger.”
“It’s a good time to open the door to new leadership,” he said.
He said he’ll spend his final month, “up to the last minute,” advocating for adoption of what he calls “the best budget I’ve seen in my career.”
In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom called Oakley “an incredible leader and champion for higher education, setting California’s community colleges on a course for transformational change.”
“As we execute on the vision for a more equitable, affordable, and student-centered system of higher education, I look forward to continuing to work with Chancellor Oakley in his new role, along with the strong leadership in the Chancellor’s Office and at campuses throughout the state.”
The number of students earning a college credential increased by 32 percent and the number of students earning Associate Degrees for Transfer more than doubled.
Pamela Haynes, president of the Board of Governor’s praised Oakley for “unwavering commitment.”
“He has been the catalyst for reforming and transforming our system and directing our focus on closing equity gaps, meeting students where they are and designing our institutions with them in mind,” said Haynes.
Oakley’s tenure saw an increase in successful outcomes for all student groups statewide. Since 2015, the number of students earning a college credential increased by 32 percent and the number of students earning Associate Degrees for Transfer more than doubled. One-year completion of transfer-level courses increased from 49 percent to 67 percent in English; and from 26 percent to 50 percent in mathematics.
Oakley was appointed superintendent-president of the Long Beach Community College District in 2007. In 2014, he was appointed to the University of California Board of Regents.
Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.
Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.