Janet Napolitano today announced she plans to transition from her job as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security to president of the world's premier system of public higher education, the University of California.

UC says in a statement that Napolitano would be “the first woman in the university's 145-year history to serve as president.”

UC regents will vote on Napolitano July 18, but it seems like she's a shoo-in. Regent Sherry Lancing stated that Napolitano emerged as the top candidate as her 10-member search committee sought to find a replacement for Mark G. Yudof, who announced he will step down in August after 5 years on the job.

President Obama:

Credit: Chris Radcliff / Flickr

Credit: Chris Radcliff / Flickr

I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years. At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet's portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild.

… As she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.

The 55-year-old will assume leadership of a ten-campus system that has an annual operating budget of more than $24 billion a year.

Gov. Jerry Brown:

Secretary Napolitano has the strength of character and an outsider's mind that will well serve the students and faculty. It will be exciting to work with her.

Chief among her challenges at UC will be the rising cost of tuition and fees, which have nearly tripled in the last 10 years or so.

A UC education, once the best deal around, is no longer the bootstrap opportunity it was intended to be.

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