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New College report shows lowest retention rate in school's history

A student walks on a sidewalk next to a blue and white circular sign.
Chris O'Meara
A student makes her way past the sign at New College of Florida, Jan. 20, 2023, in Sarasota, Fla. New College of Florida, the traditionally progressive public liberal arts college which was taken over by allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis as part of his “war on woke,” reports its lowest retention rate of first-year students in the school's history.

New College of Florida lost double the amount of students this year compared to the past two years. Interim Provost Brad Thiessen wrote in a report to faculty it was "by far" the lowest retention rate the Sarasota school has seen.

New College of Florida's retention rate fell to historic lows and it's dropout rate doubled between last fall and the start of the 2023-2024 school year, a report released this week shows.

The college's Interim Provost Brad Thiessen provided faculty with the rates for first-year college students on Wednesday.

Thiessen wrote the 64.9% retention rate was "by far" the lowest the school has ever seen.

A black, gray, and white graph that shows yearly figures for the retention rate at New College of Florida.
New College of Florida
New College of Florida retention rate of first-year students falls to its lowest in the Sarasota school's history.

Out of 691 students enrolled, 27% of them dropped out. That's double the amount of students leaving compared to the previous two years — 13% in 2022 and 14% in 2021.

The data tracks students who entered the school under former president Patricia Okker and then half-way through the year had new leadership under current president Richard Corcoran.

Because transfers are easier for students in their first or second years, "it was in the best interest of any student who was concerned to leave,” faculty chair Katherine Walstrom said in an email.

But school spokesperson Nathan March said in a statement the figures were "completely expected."

"These are remarkably unacceptable retention rates and demonstrate just one of the many interventions that were needed at New College," he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis began revamping the school earlier this year when he appointed six conservative board members who ultimately voted to remove Okker and hire Corcoran as the interim president.

Prior to his new role, Corcoran was a state House speaker and Florida education commissioner.

Earlier this month, Corcoran was selected by the Board of Trustees as the permanent president. Once his contract is negotiated and approved by the board, it will go before the State University System of Florida Board of Governors at a Nov. 9 meeting for approval, according to a press release.

"As we look to our growth and our future, we are intently focused on supporting the 733 students who are here today," March said.

Walstrom agreed. Despite the numbers, faculty are doing everything they can to help students succeed, she said.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.