How Could Change Happen at New College of Florida?
I wrote a review of New College of Florida as our world came out from pandemic times. I also mentioned the school in my book, The Good College. New College of Florida has also been one of the Colleges that Change Lives since 1996. New College’s leadership wants to “re-make” their college into a school that they did not choose.
When I last reported on New College of Florida, I came to believe that affordability and the intellectual experience were the best reasons for students to choose the school.
The estimated total cost of attendance for Florida residents is less than $22,000, and the state has generous scholarship programs. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of New College students, all undergrads, come from the Sunshine State. New College graduates who borrowed owed just over $15,000, far less than they might have owed to a private liberal arts college.
New College of Florida students receive written narrative evaluations versus grades from a faculty they really get to know. Graduate schools and employers can receive a grade-focused transcript. However, the idea of the evaluations is to offer constructive criticism to help students to communicate, listen better and write better as they advance towards a degree, then enter the workforce after they finish.
I have followed political developments directed towards making this small college “more like Hillsdale College (MI).”
Vanity Fair has a story that covers this in detail. Hillsdale is a larger private Christian college that proudly accepts no government funding. Founded in 1844 this college has grown its endowment to over $900 million. They have the resources to do business without state or Federal money. This is covered on the Parents page of Hilldale’s website.
Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit by charter admissions discrimination based on race, sex, or religion. Standing on principle continues to define us. By refusing even one penny of federal or state aid for student grants, awards, loans, or scholarships, we can be a truly independent institution—one not beholden to government regulations that conflict with our educational mission.
But New College of Florida is a public institution in a state that has done a lot when it comes to affordability.
I have to imagine that Governor DeSantis would not have tried to replace trustees, a president and now faculty, without getting legal opinions. In order to remain a viable public college New College of Florida would need to continue to accept state and Federal funding for student aid as well as operating assistance. I don’t know how the college would survive without them. The Florida legislature approved an additional $15 million, mainly to hire new faculty who support the governor’s world view. But that might not make up for potential losses from other sources.
A conservative board of conservative trustees would need to raise money to make up for lost contributions.
New College had an operating budget of over $50 million in 2020-21 based on the latest data that I could find from the State University System of Florida. This does not include costs for renovations or new construction, nor student aid. The college’s foundation raised $9 million in 2020-21. However, they could lose much of the New College alumni base and supportive foundations as funding sources. The educational model will shift to one that they did not support. There are also donors who have given restricted gifts who may ask that their gifts be returned.
Now click and read about the mission of Hillsdale College
If I understand Hillsdale’s mission correctly as well their Liberal Arts Core, it would be fair to believe that New College’s general education requirements would become similar. Looking at the current general education requirements, I would believe that the Diverse Perspectives requirement would go away. However, the evaluative model, thesenior project and the Baccalaureate Examination (an oral defense of the senior project), would stay. This fits within a rigorous education, whether the curriculum is classical or open.
At present Florida public high schools are allowed to offer world religion courses.. However, there have been past attempts to make Bible study mandatory for high school students. It would be no surprise to see a religion requirement imposed at New College. Whether that requirement would be upheld by state or federal courts is another matter.
However, when it comes to colleges, it’s not only what you teach, but also how you teach it.
A conservative Christian-focused college can teach with an emphasis on their world view, lightly touching on other viewpoints. But a publicly supported college must be far more balanced, to encourage students to think for themselves. Christopher Newport and Clemson are two public colleges that offer academic options that emphasize capitalism, free-market views, and the Constitution. However, these options are chosen by students who are interested in them. They are not forced upon every student at the school.
There’s no way to know how the college’s trustees will go to maintain a balance or if they will resist temptations to indoctrinate students towards a conservative world view.
Here are two questions that come to me:
- Will the college open the gates for right-leaning organizations to recruit students to their causes while closing them to organizations that lean another way?
- Or would they disband all organizations that have some political leanings in an effort to be perceived as welcoming to all?
I found at least one news story that mentions that Governor DeSantis accused New College of strictly teaching theories that have become major conservative talking points in recent years, including critical race theory (CRT) and gender theories. I have also read denials from faculty.
A public college should equally teach all viewpoints about public policies and social issues from a global perspective.
This is especially true if coursework in such areas is required of every student, regardless of their major. Yes, Americans who attend American colleges should understand the meaning of American citizenship and civics. However, there is an excellent chance that they will be working alongside people who have no less pride in their home country. A broad educational experience, civility and listening skills will be more important in career success. Governor DeSantis and his appointed trustees should have learned that a long time ago.
I must imagine that the admissions team has been thrown into a state of uncertainty.
They would have no idea about the size and complexion of the next first-year class as well as next year’s sophomores and juniors, not to mention students and their families. I would imagine that the new leadership will attract students who share their world view. However, the new view may evolve to become a “new school” for the incoming students while trying to shake off and shun the “old school” for those who cannot afford to leave.
Want to know more about me?
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!