New College of Florida Looks to Double Enrollment With $400M Investment Request

Following its conservative transformation, the university's five-year plan would increase enrollment by adding sports offerings and new academic programs.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on November 30, 2023
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  • New College of Florida is a liberal arts institution in the midst of a conservative transformation.
  • College leaders are now looking to expand enrollment to approximately 1,200 students.
  • A proposed plan would add the New College Freedom Institute to the school's offerings.
  • Some have questioned whether a school of this size needs such a lofty investment from the state.

New College of Florida has significant growth plans and is asking for an eye-popping $400 million from the state to make those plans a reality.

Some have questioned the financial viability of this plan.

The small liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida, has been the site of a conservative transformation over the past year, overseen by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that included major shake-ups on its board of trustees and a new interim president. The institution proposed a five-year plan this month to grow its enrollment from just under 700 students to approximately 1,200 by 2028.

The school is aiming for 1,800 enrolled students by 2034.

New College plans to achieve these enrollment goals by adding new academic programs, growing its portfolio of athletic offerings, and expanding student housing options.

President Richard Corcoran requested $400 million from the state over the next five years to make that happen.

"The challenges and opportunities are intertwined," the five-year plan states. "New College requires substantial investment, and yet it retains the capacity, developed over decades, to be once again a great liberal arts college."

A Florida Board of Governors member asked two business professors at the University of Florida to review an earlier draft of the plan and provide feedback, according to a report from the News Service of Florida. Both analysts seemingly questioned the merits not only of the plan but also the lofty price tag attached to Corcoran's vision.

"The plan, in its current state, is not financially viable," one faculty member wrote. "However, there are likely opportunities for New College to become financially sustainable by leveraging ideas that were either marginally mentioned in the plan or were not mentioned at all."

For reference, New College of Florida received approximately $41.4 million from the state for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

New Academic Offerings Incoming

A lynchpin of DeSantis' transformation plan for New College was the New College Freedom Institute.

Details of said institute, however, have been lacking. The college's five-year plan offers new insight into what this center may look like when it's established in time for the 2024-25 academic year.

The New College Freedom Institute will invite scholars to teach courses and host seminars at New College to "promote freedom of inquiry and champion tolerance of civil

discourse among those of opposing views." The Freedom Institute would also recognize those who "have suffered from and persevered through censorship," according to the proposal.

New College will also use this institute to conduct research that may be used in a master's program in educational leadership.

The school requested $2 million in state funding to establish the Freedom Institute.

New College also plans to establish new master's programs in the next year, according to the proposal. Those programs include:

  • Florida Institute of Marine Mammal Science Master's Degree in Marine Mammal Science
  • Master's of Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Master's of Educational Leadership

The school requested $6 million for these new academic programs.

Athletic Offerings May Spur Enrollment Growth

New College of Florida didn't have an athletic department before the 2023-24 academic year. But beginning in the fall 2023 semester, the college launched six sports programs:

  • Men's soccer
  • Men's basketball
  • Men's baseball
  • Women's soccer
  • Women's basketball
  • Women's softball

In October, New College of Florida Athletics joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). It will be eligible to compete for championships within the Sun Conference beginning in fall 2024, according to the five-year plan.

New College has loftier athletic goals than just six teams, however.

The college hopes to grow athletic enrollment from 140 student-athletes in 2023 to 350 by fall 2027. It would do so with 11 men's teams and 12 women's teams, according to the proposal.

Planned Sports, Fall 2027
Men's Women's
Soccer Soccer
Basketball Basketball
Baseball Softball
Lacrosse Lacrosse
Bass fishing Bass fishing
Golf Beach volleyball
Tennis Indoor volleyball
Rowing Rowing
Cross country Cross country
Swimming Tennis
Dance Golf

New College plans to have a varsity team and a development team for each sport.

In the short term, New College has partnered with other institutions in Manatee County and Sarasota County to house its sports team. The five-year plan includes renderings of potential sports complexes that could be built in the future, including a pool and baseball field.

Addressing Student Housing Woes

If New College wants to grow enrollment to over 1,200 students, it says it will need to address its student housing situation.

New College anticipates 75-80% of students will live on campus by 2027. That means it would need about 1,000 beds for students, but the college currently only has 630 beds, with at least 100 being unusable due to poor conditions.

College leaders are asking the Florida Legislature to allow New College to issue revenue bonds so that the college can build 650 beds.

That plan would include replacing the Pei student housing complex (250 beds) and constructing new housing complexes (400 beds).

New College is currently paying approximately $2 million to house students at a nearby hotel to accommodate enrollment growth in 2023. The school's five-year plan states it will likely cost an additional $5 million for spring 2024.