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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 30, 2017 1 year ago

College smiles at budget

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New College of Florida now has money to expand enrollment, faculty and staff.

As is wont to happen when a state passes its budget, howls of “what happened to my money” went far and deep statewide when Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2017-2018 budget.

But at Sarasota-based New College of Florida, there was joy, not sadness when the budget was dissected. That's because it includes $5.4 million in funding for the school — a 50% bump and the seed money to “embark on a transformative plan for its future,” college officials say in a release. The funds are specifically for the first phase of a plan unanimously approved by the State University System Board of Governors in November and endorsed by the Florida Legislature in May.

“This growth plan will elevate New College from a top small, public college, to a place among the very best of all American colleges and universities,” New College President Donal O'Shea says in a statement.

The first phase will allow New College to begin recruiting 15 new faculty members in 2017-18, beginning three years of hiring that will add 40 new professors. That surge will bring New College's total full-time faculty to 120 by 2020-2021. New College will also begin to gradually expand its enrollment, to an estimated 900 students by 2018-2019 and 1,200 by 2022-2023. 

The idea, say school officials, is to grow both enrollment and faculty by 50%. That allows the school to maintain its hallmark 10-to-1 student-faculty ratio and small classes with close faculty-student mentoring, the release states. Staffing would grow by about 20%, to accommodate the admissions and student support positions needed for the larger enrollment.

And this isn't growth for growth's sake, say school officials. At around 1,200 students, New College would compare closely in enrollment to other top small liberal arts and sciences colleges in the country, such as Swarthmore and Haverford. That kind of scale, says New College leadership, citing several studies, leads to improved retention and graduation rates. New College already has the third-highest graduation rate in the Florida state system, but it targets the No. 1 spot.

“Our growth plan,” O'Shea says, “will allow New College to do more of what it already does so well — offering students the chance to partner with brilliant faculty members to learn, conduct high-level research and become prepared for the challenges of the 21st¬†century.”

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