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Education Government & Politics

Moore names new Higher Education Commission secretary, last Cabinet pick

Dr. Sanjay Rai, Gov. Wes Moore’s pick to become secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Photo courtesy of Montgomery College.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Wednesday announced that he has chosen Sanjay Rai to serve as acting secretary for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

It is the final Cabinet-level position to be filled in the new administration.

Rai, senior vice president for academic affairs at Montgomery College, would need to be confirmed by the state Senate when the General Assembly reconvenes next January before losing the “acting” part of his title.

“Dr. Rai brings more than 30 years of career experience and dedicated commitment to innovation, access, and leadership in higher education,” Moore said in a statement. “The Maryland Higher Education Commission is critical to creating success for Maryland’s students and I look forward to the transformative partnerships Dr. Rai will forge to build pathways to work, wages and wealth.”

​​The Maryland Higher Education Commission is the state’s higher education regulatory and coordinating board, responsible for establishi​​ng statewide policies for Maryland public and private colleges and universities, as well as for for-profit career schools. It is governed by a 12-member commission whose members are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

Rai’s career with Montgomery College dates back almost 20 years: He started as instructional dean for science, engineering and mathematics at the community college’s Rockville campus in 2004, moved on to become vice president and provost at the Germantown campus in 2009, and assumed his present position in November 2013.

“Dr. Rai’s qualifications and accomplishments make him uniquely situated to support Gov. Moore’s vision for advancing higher education in Maryland,” said Montgomery College President Jermaine F. Williams. “His accomplishments while at Montgomery College have benefitted thousands of students, bolstered the College’s academic programs, and forged valuable collaborations with community, industry, and government. His dedication to equity, innovation, and academic excellence has made a very real difference for all of us at Montgomery College.”

Rai’s academic career includes stints as chair of the Department of Mathematics at Jacksonville University in Florida, and as an associate professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Arkansas, masters degrees from academic institutions in Canada and India, and a BS in statistics, physics and mathematics from the University of Allahabad in India.

In a statement, the Moore administration said that Rai “has consistently and vigorously advanced innovations that bolster student success in academic, career, technical, and workforce development programs throughout his career. He has worked to remove barriers to education access through the redesign of developmental education, revision of alternate placement policies, and embedding of coaches in classrooms to increase student success.”

The administration also said that Rai’s community college background especially puts him in touch with the academic and workforce needs of students.

“This is an historic opportunity to build upon a strong higher education system of community colleges, the University of Maryland System, and private colleges,” Rai said. “We must create an inclusive higher education ecosystem that provides meaningful and affordable access to higher education and workforce training to all residents in the state. We will ensure that home grown talent combined with research advancements will make Maryland a prime destination for employers around the nation and the world for relocating, starting and expanding their businesses.” 

Rai is expected to start his job with the state in May. He’ll replace James D. Fielder Jr., a veteran government hand who served as secretary of Higher Education Commission for most of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s tenure and left office in January.


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Moore names new Higher Education Commission secretary, last Cabinet pick