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New College of Florida to lower performance goals while seeking $400 million

Man in suit and tie speaks into a microphone. He's standing, and making a point with his left hand.
Florida House of Representatives
President of New College of Florida, Richard Corcoran, used to serve as a speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

The Florida Board of Governors approved New College of Florida's accountability plan, which lowered performance expectations.

New College of Florida, under newly confirmed president Richard Corcoran, received Florida Board of Governors' approval for a new accountability plan that sets lower performance standards.

It reduces many of the school’s targets for the next academic year when compared to the ones set in the 2022 version of the same document.

For example, the four-year graduation rate goal for first-time-in-college students is now 50% for students who entered New College from 2020 through 2024. That's compared to the previous plan, which set a goal of 62% for students entering in 2020 and 67% for the first year student class of 2022.

Graduation rate goals for first-time-in-college students who take six years to graduate from New College are lower as well — 70% was the original number for students entering in 2020, compared to 55% in the new plan.

Tthe school's retention rate goal for first-year students also drops, going from 85% to 75% for those entering in the 2023-24 academic year. Starting next fall, however, the target goes back up to 85%.

The BOG Budget and Finance committee met last week to discuss the new accountability plan in Orlando. Corcoran gave a presentation on what the future looks like for New College and was praised by many board members.

But the board’s faculty representative, Amanda Phalin of the University of Florida, was concerned that the approval of this plan could set a different precedent for state funding for public universities going forward.

“Performance-based funding is a limited pool of money,” she said. “I think it’s one thing to not penalize a school for not meeting a metric, but I think it’s setting a different precedent ... when the metrics have been lowered.”

She’s concerned whether moving forward, all institutions will be treated the same by the board.

But Chairman Brian Lamb said that changes in metrics are not unusual.

“Just about every year, if not every year, several metrics for almost every institution go up and down,” he said.

As an example, Lamb mentioned that the University of South Florida not so long ago, reduced 5 or 6 of their performance metrics in the span of a year.

He added that New College’s goals “might be a bit further (reduced) just because of the challenges they’re dealing with.”

“It’s not unusual for metrics to come down and for metrics to go up quickly,” he said.

Lamb concluded by saying that he hopes that Corcoran will come back to the board and show them how the school has improved.

Corcoran also presented the board with a plan to reach New College enrollment of 1,200 students by 2028. Currently, there are roughly 700 enrolled at the Sarasota university.

He told governors that New College would need at least $400 million over the next five years to achieve his goals of turning into a “world-class classical liberal arts school”.

At Thursday's full board meeting, the governors formally approved Corcoran, who has served as NCF interim president since late January as president.

“We know we’ve got a heavy hill to climb. We intend to," Corcoran said. "And hopefully, in short order we will be able to report back the tremendous resurgence of the legacy of New College.”

New College’s funding request would need to be approved by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

João Victor Pina is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for fall of 2023.