Sticker shock: New College business plan calls for $600k per student to implement conservative vision

by | Nov 8, 2023

  • New College of Florida (NCF) will request $420 million in state investment to support a conservative makeover.
  • The figure translates to a staggering capital outlay ratio of $600,000 per student for the tiny Sarasota campus with fewer than 700 enrollees.
  • NCF’s financial plan depends heavily on massive financial investment and flexibility compared to other state schools.
  • A separate document appears to show that the school is planning for President Richard Corcoran’s compensation in the 2024 school year to top $1.1 million.

A highly-anticipated business plan presentation by New College of Florida (NCF), slated for Wednesday afternoon, will include a request that state lawmakers pony up $420 million in direct and indirect state investment to help sustain an already-underway conservative makeover of the school, according to documents submitted to the Board of Governors before the meeting. The funding request, if granted, would translate into an unusually high capital outlay ratio of $600,000 per student for the state’s smallest higher education institution. New College currently enrolls fewer than 700 students on the tiny Sarasota beachfront campus.

The $420 million figure was included in the newest version of a business plan prepared ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. A previously submitted business plan sent to the Board of Trustees in August did not contain the figure, but other eye-popping dollar amounts and related asks contained in the August plan have already started raising eyebrows even among otherwise sympathetic Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee. Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told the Capitolist last week that she had concerns and expected her legislative colleagues to “review the plan more closely” when lawmakers convene to set the budget for the upcoming year.

Wednesday’s presentation will take place on the University of Central Florida’s campus, the state’s largest school, setting up a sharp and unfavorable comparison between the two schools: if UCF made the same fixed capital outlay request that NCF is making for $600,000 per student, UCF’s 66,000 enrollees would require over $40 billion.

The college’s strategic shift towards what Republican leaders hope will become a conservative intellectual stronghold is part of a broader state education reform plan under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has shown little tolerance for progressive education experimentation. But Republican lawmakers have shown a willingness to grant NCF broad leeway to make necessary changes at the school after years of declining enrollment.

Even so, the rapidly ballooning financial blueprint under new school president Richard Corcoran, a DeSantis ally, is starting to draw increasing scrutiny for its sheer scale and the burden it places on taxpayers. And Corcoran’s high salary isn’t helping calm Republican jitters, either. A line item in a previously submitted budget document, also obtained by The Capitolist, appears to show that New College anticipates Corcoran’s full compensation package to reach nearly $1.06 million during the 2024 school year.

The NCF business plan, approved by Corcoran, breaks down the $420 million capital outlay request into several financial silos. The first $227million is requested in the form of “direct state investment,” with another $173 million requested as “indirect investment,” while the final $20 million is requested in the form of “defeasance,” or debt forgiveness. The money would be used for a range of initiatives, including facility upgrades, enrollment growth, and program expansions. When the funding is broken down to a per-student figure, the cost is starkly higher than any other public higher education institution in Florida.

But some of the facilities themselves are also generating controversy, including plans that are already in motion for a school bass fishing team and the equipment and facilities necessary to support similar endeavors. On Monday night, NCF’s board of trustees was forced to convene in order to clean up an accounting mess created after approximately $600,000 in tax dollars had been improperly spent on the school’s athletic programs, which are required by law to be self-supporting and not draw on recurring state dollars.

The trustees voted 5-2 in favor of a plan to use $6.4 million in “carryforwards,” or leftover funds from the previous year, to replace the improperly spent athletic money.


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