In one of his first major moves since taking office, the new chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District is planning to launch a drive to recruit more foreign students.
As part of the plan--which has caught college officials by surprise--Chancellor Philip Westin wants to transfer Oxnard College President Elise Schneider to a new job as provost of international programs.
If the plan is approved by the district's board of trustees at a meeting early next month, Schneider would be on her way to Paris in March for a recruiting trip at an international college fair.
"The trustees may tell me I am nuttier than a fruitcake," Westin said. "But if they approve this, I am going to appoint Elise and launch a new job search for the president immediately."
The recruitment of foreign students, who pay more than 10 times as much tuition per three-unit class as California residents, has long been seen by many in the district as one of the keys to increase the money flow to the county's community colleges, Westin said.
"This is a major expansion of the district's international student program," Westin said. "Each foreign student brings $3,000 to the district. If we can attract 100 students, that would be $300,000."
Trustees for the district said that though surprised by the sudden decision, they very likely will support the measure. Trustees on Feb. 6 are scheduled to discuss whether to extend Schneider's contract for another year.
"I am in favor of it," Trustee Pete Tafoya said. "It's a window of opportunity and I'd encourage Dr. Westin to look into it."
"I couldn't think of anyone within the district who could better fit that position than Elois Schneider," Trustee Timothy Hirschberg said. But most said they would like to see more details on the plan before reaching any final decisions.
"I don't want to comment on it now because I don't know enough about it," Trustee John Tallman said. "But I have a lot of confidence in Phil Westin and I will tend to support anything he recommends."
Trustee Allan Jacobs said while he believes Schneider is a perfect fit for the job, he is concerned about how much money the new position will cost the district.
"I think it is an interesting, creative concept but I am going to be asking more questions of the chancellor before I approve it," he said.
Under the proposal, Schneider's salary would remain the same, about $100,000 a year.
Westin said he made the sudden decision Friday after Schnieder informed him that if the district planned to take advantage of the March recruitment fair in Paris, it would have to meet a February deadline for registration.
"The bottom line is that if we didn't move now, we were going to miss the recruitment cycle for the entire year," Westin said.
Schneider, who has headed Oxnard College since 1989, said she would welcome the lateral move.
"It is just a proposal at this time," she said. "But I am very excited to be taking the district forward in the area of students' programs."
For Westin, creation of the position would fulfill his promise to trustees to try to build enrollment of foreign students as a way of increasing money for the district.
Although long tapped as a source of revenue by community college districts in neighboring counties, the Ventura County district has failed to attract as many foreign students as its neighbors in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
Santa Monica College counts about 2,100 foreign students, or about 10% of the student body, from about 93 countries on campus. They generate about $9 million annually for the college, said Bruce Smith, a spokesman for the college.
In comparison, about 60 students at Ventura College are from abroad. Oxnard College enrolls about 58 to 70 foreign students every year, and 81 of Moorpark College's approximately 9,500 students are foreigners.
If Schneider assumes the new position, the district would immediately launch a new search for president of Oxnard College, Westin said.