New Long Beach City College Trustee Uduak-Joe Ntuk sees a lot of the struggles he faced in the students he will soon be serving: he was once an LBCC student from a low-income home and also a teenage parent.
Now, the 39-year-old is an engineering professor at Cal State Long Beach and the Petroleum Administrator for the city of Los Angeles. On Tuesday, he will be sworn-in as the first African-American man to be elected to the board of trustees. He unseated four-term board member Jeff Kellogg in this year’s election.
“It’s interesting, in my capacity now, because I have been through what the majority of our students are experiencing,” Ntuk said. “Seventy percent of our students are low-income, many of our students are parents.”
“It was my pathway to education, my jump start,” he said.
But Ntuk is concerned about the issues the college is facing now: declining enrollment, a decline in student success and completion rates and deficit spending.
“I really felt like the college had lost touch with the community and wasn’t serving our needs,” he said. “I’ve been very involved in North Long Beach and there’s not been any Long Beach City College presence in our part of town or very minimal.”
While the population of Long Beach has remained relatively stable over the past 20 years, student enrollment has been steadily declining—and the college is missing a lot of potential students in North Long Beach, he said.
“North Long Beach has had the most population growth in the last two Census periods; we have the most young families, young kids—that’s our future, that’s our enrollment gap,” Ntuk said.
He wants to fix the problem that students from the area face: simply getting there.
A bus ride from Jordan High School to LBCC takes one hour and has multiple transfers, but it’s an eight-minute straight-shot to Compton College. And unlike CSULB, the community college does not have a free bus pass program.
A free bus pass program for LBCC could save students gas money, and they wouldn’t have to buy a parking permit, he said. It could also help reduce emissions and increase ridership for public transit.
“It’s a win-win-win and we’ve been absent and that’s part of a lack of engagement and not being connected with the student population,” Ntuk said.
In addition, Ntuk wants to address the school’s deficit spending. While the college has cut it’s $10.7 million deficit spending to $4.8 million this year, he wants to bring it all the way down and find additional revenue streams, starting with increasing the college’s solar panel capabilities.
His ideas have generated some excitement on campus, particularly LBCC Superintendent-President Reagan Romali.
“The main reason I like him and respect him so much is that his main priority is the students,” Romali said. “He wants the community engaged with the college and more importantly the college engaged with the community.”
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