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$1.1 million is on the line for New College as president prepares a student success report

Gov.Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota in May.
Cathy Carter
Gov.Ron DeSantis signed SB 266 into law on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota in May.

It would account for only a portion of nearly $4.2 million in state performance-based funding that could have been available to New College.

About $1.1 million is on the line for New College of Florida as President Richard Corcoran is slated next week to present a "student success plan monitoring report" to state university system officials — after the school lost out on about $2 million in potential performance-based funding.

Corcoran will present the report, which details how the small liberal-arts school has worked to carry out eight goals it set last year, during a meeting Tuesday of the Budget and Finance Committee of the university system’s Board of Governors.

New College trustees in August laid out eight initiatives “to implement by March 2024 in order to improve first-to-second year student retention and post-graduation outcomes.” The initiatives included benchmarks such as goals of issuing $400,000 in scholarships to at least 200 students, as the school has looked to pump up enrollment.

Corcoran and the trustees during the past year have sought to make major changes to the school, which had fewer than 700 students in 2022. Gov. Ron DeSantis drew national attention when he revamped the Board of Trustees by appointing conservative allies.

Getting the university system Board of Governors to sign off on the report, which says New College has “fully implemented” seven of the eight initiatives, would authorize the release of $1,099,013 to the school. But that would account for only a portion of nearly $4.2 million in state performance-based funding that could have been available to New College.

Performance-based funding is earned by schools achieving scores based on various factors, including graduation rates, degrees awarded in areas of “strategic emphasis” designated by university system officials and percentages of graduates with bachelor’s degrees who are employed.

“New College of Florida’s score for 2023 was 65 points. If NCF had scored 70 points or higher, they would have been eligible for $4,198,026,” a document in the Board of Governors agenda said.

Based on the school’s score, New College was eligible to receive only about half of the $4.2 million. It was given just shy of $1.1 million in September for initially presenting its student success plan.

Receiving the second similar amount is contingent on the Board of Governors deeming that the report “demonstrates satisfactory progress” on the goals New College has set out.

The report details New College providing $438,940 in “internship scholarships” to 223 students entering the school at the beginning of the academic year.

“Students receiving these scholarships are required to complete an internship prior to graduation. These scholarships remove barriers to participation in work-based learning experiences and advance us toward our goal for 100% of students to complete an academic internship prior to graduation,” a description of the initiative said.

The report also touted the creation of master’s degrees in marine mammal science and educational leadership. The school also says it has “fully implemented” a goal of providing “24/7 on-demand, no-cost access to professional tutors” through an online service called Knack.

“This complements the in-person one-on-one and group tutoring sessions our students can schedule through our Academic Services one-stop shop,” the university reported.

One goal that New College set but doesn’t expect to complete until May is hiring six academic coaches.

“Results of this initiative will be apparent next year, as incoming students will be assigned academic coaches (on top of faculty advisors and career coaches),” the New College report said.

Separate from the performance-based funding, New College is in line to receive tens of millions of dollars appropriated by lawmakers in the budget for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year.

The Legislature earmarked $2 million that is intended, in part, to help New College hire academic coaches. The proposed budget still needs approval from DeSantis, and it includes some strings for New College to receive the money.

As an example, a $15 million pot of money for New College includes the funds for academic coaches and a proposed $10 million for temporary student housing. Receipt of the $15 million is contingent on the school submitting a detailed business plan to the Board of Governors that “describes the institution’s long-term student enrollment goals and how it will use the funding provided by the state to achieve these goals.”

The Legislature also earmarked $10 million for “operational enhancements” at the school, with Corcoran and the school’s Board of Trustees given discretion on the way the money would be spent. But $5 million of that money would have to go toward providing scholarships to students.