President Barack Obama named Eduardo M. Ochoa assistant secretary for postsecondary education on Feb. 23, 2010. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2010, and, in his post, he serves as the secretary's chief advisor on higher-education issues and administers more than 60 programs, totaling nearly $3 billion annually, that are designed to provide financial assistance to eligible students enrolled in postsecondary institutions. ED's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) supports higher education facilities and programs through financial support to eligible institutions, recruits and prepares disadvantaged students for successful completion of college, promotes the study of foreign languages and international affairs, and supports international educational research and exchange activities. Notable among its programs are the eight TRIO programs, institutional development programs for minority institutions, teacher development programs, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. OPE runs the well-known Byrd, Fulbright, Javits and McNair programs and certifies all regional and national accreditation agencies, so they, in turn, may qualify institutions to receive federal financial aid and Pell grants.
Prior to joining the Department, Ochoa served for seven years as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University, part of the California State University system. During his tenure, he oversaw campus-wide strategic planning and diversity efforts, among many duties. The Academic Affairs Division has five schools, 600 faculty members, and 8,900 students, with an annual budget of $50 million.
A native of Buenos Aires, Ochoa attended bilingual schools in the Argentinian capital through his sophomore year in high school before immigrating with his family to Portland, Oreg., where his father, a biochemist, had been hired to run the clinical lab at Portland's Good Samaritan Hospital.
Ochoa earned his bachelor's degree in physics, with a minor in philosophy, from Reed College in 1973. Three years later, he finished his master's at Columbia University in New York in nuclear science and engineering just after Isabel Perón's government had been overthrown by a military coup. His original plan to return to Argentina and work for the National Atomic Energy Commission had to be put aside.
After working for three years as an assistant and associate engineer in New York, Ochoa began his Ph.D. in economics at the New School for Social Research, where his thesis on labor values and the prices of production during the postwar period won the Edith Hansen award for an outstanding dissertation in economics and political science.
While working on his Ph.D., Ochoa began lecturing on economics at Cal State-Fresno, and, after graduation, he was hired by Cal State-Los Angeles, as an assistant professor, making full professor by 1997. Along the way, he led the school's Bureau of Business and Economic Research for three years, chaired the Economics Department for four years, and in his last year at Cal State-Los Angeles served as acting dean of the School of Business and Economics.
In 1997, he was hired as the dean of Cal Poly Pomona's College of Business Administration, where he worked for six years, leading 170 faculty members who teach some 4,800 students.
The author of many journal articles on economics, Ochoa and his wife, Holly, a historian, live in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, D.C. They have two sons, Michael, 28, who is pursuing graduate studies, and Eric, 26, who is a partner in a consulting firm.