The Board of Higher Education voted for Pennsylvania’s former Education Secretary Noe Ortega to become Massachusetts’ next Commissioner of Higher Education.

The board unanimously selected Ortega from a group of four finalists on Tuesday morning after a five-month search.

"With his experience as both a commissioner and secretary of education, Dr. Ortega has a track record of innovation and results, as well as a proven commitment to further equity in higher education, out top priority," Board Chair Chris Gabrieli said in a statement.

Eight board members voted in favor of Ortega while four voted for Northern Essex Community College president Lane Glenn in a preliminary vote. The unanimous vote came on a motion after Ortega was just one short of the votes required. The board’s recommendation will be submitted to Education Secretary James Peyser, who is expected to confirm the choice by week’s end.

Ortega served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education for two years before he stepped down in April. At that time, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called him a dedicated advocate for all students who successfully led the state through COVID-19 and a safe return to in-person learning.

“His successful efforts to diversify our educator workforce and improve opportunities for students to obtain postsecondary education opportunities will undoubtedly continue to impact our learners for years to come,” Wolf said.

Ortega spent eight years at the University of Michigan, where he held several academic and administrative roles, including the assistant director and senior research associate at the National Center for Institutional Diversity and as the managing director for the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good.

He also worked in financial aid and enrollment management at public and private universities in Texas and spent nearly seven years as director of a language institute in Japan.

In an open forum with the finalists last week, Ortega said he appreciated Massachusetts’ mission to reestablish ways colleges and universities can create pathways historically underserved students.

“My entire career has been dedicated to that particular idea,” Ortega said. “What are the voices that need to be elevated? How can I use my leadership to make sure that I create conditions in which ... the institutions I’m leading can be effective.”

Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago announced his plans to step down in January after nearly 10 years in the role. He will remain commissioner until Ortega’s expected start date in September.