Gov. Phil Murphy has appointed former White House staffer Zakiya Smith Ellis as secretary of higher education.
Smith Ellis is the director of finance and federal policy at the Lumina Foundation, where she focuses on developing new models to help students afford postsecondary education and working with states to design college affordability initiatives. She also served as a senior policy advisor for education in the Obama Administration.
Smith Ellis will be charged with attempting to turn Murphy’s campaign promises on higher education into reality. During his campaign, he pledged free tuition at community colleges and to undo current state admissions testing requirements.
“I know from personal experience the transformative power of education and have worked for my entire professional career to ensure those opportunities are available for more students,” Smith Ellis said in a press release. “I’m excited that Governor Murphy recognizes and understands the increasing necessity of higher education in today's society and am looking forward to building out his vision to make learning after high school more affordable and accessible for residents of New Jersey of all ages and backgrounds.”