1 in 4 U.S. community college students studies at a California college. Meet the man in charge of them
By LA Stories Staff Orange County
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Apr. 26, 2021
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley knows firsthand the importance of an affordable, quality education.
He also knows the importance of students receiving support and guidance throughout their education. After finishing high school, Oakley found himself without a clear path to success.
Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles during a time when crime and violence was on the rise, Oakley explained how no one expected him to go to college.
“When you’re growing up in those environments, you take on the personality of your community,” he said. “The goal was to get a good paying job, a job with benefits, to support a family.”
Oakley ended up enlisting in the Army once he graduated high school. After serving for four years, he enrolled in Golden West College, eventually transferring to UC Irvine.
Today, Oakley is the first Latino to serve as Chancellor for the largest system of higher education in the country. He also sits on the board of Regents for the University of California.
On the latest episode of “LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez,” Oakley opens up about the initiatives and programs he’s implemented in order to ensure California students receive the best education possible. The College Promise, for example, aims to eliminate inequities and achievement gaps so that college is more accessible, diverse and affordable.
To Oakley, bridging those gaps not only helps the individual student, but the California economy as well.
“There is no California dream without California community college students succeeding,” he said. “There are millions of people who have not been able to access opportunities who have tremendous talent. We just have to show them the way.”
Oakley also discusses the challenges community college students have faced in this past year with the pandemic and the social unrest surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. While enrollment is down, he explains to Fernandez, the pandemic has in a way helped shine a light on problems communities have faced all along — issues such as limited broadband access in underserved communities, which he says is crucial for learning in our digital economy.
Still, Oakley notes that the California community colleges have adapted during the pandemic, offering a pipeline to jobs that are crucial in this new world such as healthcare work. To him, every person deserves help in living up to his or her full potential.
“All I want to do is facilitate that opportunity and create a system that values every person in the community and does everything possible to give them the opportunity.”