(Photo Credit: Jerome Thomas Photography)
Anyone who’s in the business of education knows, all too well, that business is not good right now and hasn’t been the past few years.
State budget cuts have forced the hands of many higher education institutions including community colleges. It’s been difficult, but it’s a road educators in California continue down because an educated workforce only helps the state’s economy.
The state’s community college system is now getting a much bigger voice when it comes to national policies and advocacy–Long Beach City College Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
“My role would be to represent LBCC and the rest of the colleges in the state to try to get the AACC to support the work that we’re doing and to advocate nationally for more support of our two-year colleges,” said Oakley.
Oakley is best known throughout California and the nation for implementing innovative programs and policies that help students succeed in college. He believes that California’s emerging sectors demand a workforce with certificates and degrees, with community colleges playing a pivotal role in improving the economy.
“I always have an interest in representing our colleges on the national level and ensuring that all of the advocacy efforts reflect the needs of California Community colleges and students, that’s certainly one aspect of this of this new position.”
But he’s most excited about the AACC’s work on the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.
“I’ve served on the commission and now the implementation team, so my other role is to move the board forward in implementing many of the recommendations for our community colleges to move into the 21st century, continue to refocus the mission of our community colleges and ensure that we are serving our changing demographics of students more effectively and assuring we are increasing the number of post-secondary credentials that are community colleges award.”
Tight operating budgets are making it harder for the state’s system to serve what has become a big appetite for community college classes.
“I will advocate the needs of our students on the federal level, to ensure we are continuing to support our students through federal financial aid, Pell and other financial aid programs. We have to streamline the financial aid process while also making sure that our colleges are in line for any federal support that’s available to them,” said Oakley.
As president of LBCC, Oakley knows the difficulty many institutions face while navigating through the challenges faced in order to improve graduation or completion rates.
“I’ll do my best to look at how we accomplish these broad goals not only in California but throughout the nation and to try and push our colleges to look at a new paradigm on how we serve our students.”
You can bet Oakley will use his experience at LBCC the past six years will be infused in his work with the AACC.
“Our colleges have a clear focus on not just increasing the number of post-secondary credentials but also ensuring that the achievement gaps that exist in our education system are high-lighted and that we make focus on closing those gaps.”
“Coming from California and a Latino product of our community colleges, it is quite apparent to me as a nation we won’t succeed unless we see more students of color complete their educational goals, so I will bring a specific focus on ensuring we do a better job of closing the achievement gaps that exist,” said Oakley.
Oakley begins his three-year term with the AACC on July 1. Although he will be traveling frequently to Washington, D.C., he is not quitting “his day job” as there is still quite a lot of work left to do ensuring students at LBCC are prepared with the skills needed for jobs available in the L.A. region today.