California State University Chancellor Timothy White, who has spearheaded efforts to bolster graduation rates in the 23-campus system, announced Tuesday he will retire next year.

White, 70, has led the Long Beach-based CSU system since 2012.

“The CSU is deeply woven into the fabric of California, having created opportunities for so many people who now play critical roles in our economic, social and political life,” White said in a statement released by the university. “It has been my great honor to work with our state’s elected leaders, our Board of Trustees and our campus, faculty, staff and student leaders to reinvest in our university to expand access and improve academic outcomes for the future.”

A search for his replacement will begin immediately, with the goal of finding a replacement by the end of the current academic year, when White plans to step down, according to the CSU.

White’s announcement comes one month after University of California President Janet Napolitano announced her plans to retire on Aug. 1, 2020. White’s departure means the two public university systems will both be searching for a new leader over the coming months.

According to the CSU, graduation rates have risen to an all-time high during White’s tenure, while state funding for the system has increased from $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion, and enrollment rose from 436,000 to more than 480,000.

“Chancellor White has helped guide the CSU through a period of restoration and ensured that the state’s renewed investment in the university is repaid by creating opportunity for more students and preparing more graduates for California’s workforce to help power our economy,” CSU Board of Trustees Chairman Adam Day said in a statement. “The board is grateful for his service and looks forward to working closely with Chancellor White in this final year to continue our current achievements and build for the future.”

According to the CSU, Day plans to appoint a special trustees committee to lead the search for a replacement. The panel will conduct a “listening tour” in November and December, holding meetings across the state to receive input on the selection process.

Gov. Gavin Newsom hailed White’s work with the CSU, particularly his “commitment to closing our state’s persistent opportunity and achievement gaps.”

“Stewarding one of the nation’s largest and most diverse systems of higher education, Chancellor White built new pathways for historic numbers of students to walk across the stage at graduation,” Newsom said. “During his tenure, we have seen CSU graduation rates at an all-time high for first-time and transfer students, putting the system on a trajectory to exceed its goals for 2025. His relentless focus on helping students graduate has not only changed lives but is transforming entire communities, showing us all what is possible when we aim high on behalf of the next generation of Californians.”

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