Commissioner Ortega

Headshot of Commissioner Noe Ortega

Noe Ortega, Ph.D., was sworn in as Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education on November 1, 2022. He has led the Department of Higher Education (DHE) through a time of historic investment by the state legislature and Healey-Driscoll Administration in affordability and access for all learners in the Commonwealth. Dr. Ortega is dedicated to increasing higher education access and closing racial equity gaps in college attainment.

Dr. Ortega has overseen the launch of two of Governor Healey’s signature higher education initiatives: MassReconnect, which made community college free for students 25 and over without prior degrees, and MASSGrant Plus Expansion, which made public colleges and universities in Massachusetts tuition and fee free for Pell Grant-eligible students and reduced costs for many middle-income students. These investments helped to make Massachusetts fifth in the nation in increasing state support for higher education between 2019 and 2024.

Under Dr. Ortega’s leadership, DHE also implemented Massachusetts’ Tuition Equity law after it was signed in August 2023, making students who are undocumented and qualify as High School Completers eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid. This law removed a barrier that was preventing students who have long called Massachusetts home from accessing a more affordable higher education in the Commonwealth.

Prior to serving as commissioner in Massachusetts, Dr. Ortega was secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He led amid a global pandemic and fostered collaboration among educational stakeholders, including leaders, faculty, unions, staff, students, and families. In his prior role as deputy secretary and commissioner for Pennsylvania’s Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education (OPHE), he led efforts to close postsecondary attainment gaps and to diversify Pennsylvania's educator workforce, while ensuring that students had access to educators trained in culturally responsive and culturally relevant teaching.

Before his leadership roles in Pennsylvania, Dr. Ortega spent eight years at the University of Michigan, where he held several academic and administrative roles. As assistant director and senior research associate at the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID), Dr. Ortega helped to enhance the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the university. Additionally, he served as managing director for the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, playing a pivotal role in a nationwide network to strengthen ties between higher education and societal advancement.

Prior to his years in Michigan, Dr. Ortega spent nearly a decade working in the areas of financial aid and enrollment management at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, where he served as a P-16 Specialist, as well as at public and private universities in Texas.

Dr. Ortega began his education career by spending seven years as director of Kogakusha, a language institute in Osaka, Japan where he trained teachers in early childhood language acquisition.

Dr. Ortega received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from St. Edwards University, a Master of Science in School Counseling from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and his Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy from the University of Michigan. His research has focused on postsecondary success for historically underserved students and higher education finance at American public colleges and universities.

Meetings & Events

Oct 22

Board of Higher Education Meeting

Dec 3

Board of Higher Education Meeting

Jan 14

Board of Higher Education Meeting

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