New College of Florida

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New College of Florida
New College of Florida
Former names
New College (1960–1975)
New College of the University of South Florida (1975–2001)
TypePublic liberal arts college
Endowment$43 million[1]
PresidentPatricia Okker[2]
Students675 (Fall 2020)[3]
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 144 acres (0.6 km2)
ColorsBlue and White
AffiliationsState University System of Florida
New College of Florida

New College of Florida is a public liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. It was founded in 1960 as a private institution known simply as New College, spent several years merged into the University of South Florida, and in 2001 became an autonomous college, the eleventh independent school of the State University System of Florida.[4][5] Upon achieving independence, the school adopted its current name: New College of Florida.

The school is distinguished by its unusual "contract system," in which students are given written evaluations instead of grades and agree to semester-long contracts in which a certain number of classes must be passed. For example, in a "three out of five" contract, a student who failed two classes would face no penalty, although one who failed three classes would risk losing the entire semester's credits. The system was devised to encourage academic experimentation and foster curiosity about disparate topics outside one's usual course of study. New College students are required to complete an undergraduate thesis project and baccalaureate exam, during which the student presents and defends their project to a committee of professors.

Undergraduates complete a step-by-step career education plan that integrates professional development with their academic experience. Students work with their personal career coach and faculty sponsor to undertake professional internships, undergraduate research, community service, and other hands-on learning opportunities that complement their academic coursework.

New College has by far the smallest student population in the State University System of Florida with only 675 students as of the Fall 2020 semester.[6]


New College was conceived during the late 1950s, and founded by local civic leaders in 1960 as a private college for academically talented students. Financial assistance was provided by the Board of Homeland Missions of the United Church of Christ.[7] George F. Baughman served as the first president from 1961 to 1965.[8]

The school offers a liberal arts education valuing freedom of inquiry and the responsibility of individual students for their own education were to be implemented through a unique academic program.[9] Open to students of all races, genders, and religious affiliations, New College opened its doors in 1964 to a premier class of 101 students.[10][11] Faculty members included the historian and philosopher Arnold J. Toynbee, who was lured out of retirement to join the charter faculty.

By 1972, New College's ranks had swelled to more than 500 students and it had become known for its teaching-focused faculty, its unique courses and curricula, and its fiercely independent and hard-working students. As the 1970s progressed, although New College's academic program continued to mature, inflation threatened to undermine the economic viability of the institution. By 1975, the college was $3.9 million in debt and on the brink of insolvency, and the University of South Florida (USF) expressed interest in buying the land and facilities of the near-bankrupt college to establish a branch campus for the Sarasota and Bradenton area.[11][12]

In an unusual agreement, the New College Board of Trustees agreed to hand over the school's campus and other assets to the state, at the time valued at $8.5 million, in exchange for the state paying off its debts and agreeing to continue to operate the school as a separate unit within the USF system. The agreement stated that New College was to receive the same funding, per-student, as other programs at USF. The former New College Board of Trustees became the New College Foundation, and was required to raise money privately to supplement the state funds to reach the total necessary to run New College, at the time about a third of New College's $2-million-a-year operating budget. Under the agreement, New College was re-christened the "New College of the University of South Florida". USF started a Sarasota branch program that shared the bayfront campus, and the schools began an uneasy relationship that would last for the next twenty-five years, with New College and the University of South Florida through its Sarasota branch program sharing the campus.[11][12]

As part of a major reorganization of Florida's public education system in 2001, New College severed its ties with USF, became the eleventh independent school in the State University System of Florida, and adopted its current name, New College of Florida.[13] The Florida legislature officially designated New College as the honors college for the state of Florida.[14] As part of its establishment as an independent university, the University of South Florida was directed to relocate its facilities away from the New College campus, which it did on August 28, 2006, when it opened a new campus for USF Sarasota-Manatee.[15] New College and USF Sarasota-Manatee continued to share campuses until the new campus was completed.

Today, as Florida's independent honors college, New College retains its original academic program, while enjoying the benefits and accessibility that being a public university affords. It is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

New College is governed by a 12-member Board of Trustees, who serve staggered four-year terms. Of the 12 members, three must be residents of Sarasota County and two must be residents of Manatee County.[16]


New College's 144-acre (0.58 km2) bayfront campus is located in west Sarasota, Florida, approximately 50 mi (80 km) south of Tampa. Situated between Sarasota Bay and the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, the college lies within a public educational, cultural, and historic district that includes the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Asolo Repertory Theatre. The primary campus is located on the former Edith and Charles Ringling estate.[17] The campus also includes portions of The Uplands, a residential neighborhood that is bounded by the historic bayfront campus to the south, Tamiami Trail to the east, Sarasota Bay to the west, most of which used to be a portion of the estate, and the Seagate property to the north.

The campus's most remarkable structures are its three Florida 1920s boom time, grand-scale residences: College Hall was the home of Edith and Charles Ringling; Cook Hall was the home of Hester Ringling Lancaster Sanford; and Caples Hall was the home of Ellen and Ralph Caples. The well-appointed structures date from the early to mid-1920s, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are similar in style to the adjacent John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and their residence, Cà d'Zan. Today, these buildings are used as classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices and their expansive properties provide sites for the modern developments on the bayfront campus.[18]

The campus is also home to several examples of high modernist architecture designed by I. M. Pei. These buildings include a complex of student residences known as "Pei", a cafeteria, and a student center. The other dormitories are Dort, Goldstein, and Palmer B. Five new dormitory buildings have been opened in the 2007–2008 school year, with the most recent opened in October 2007. They currently are referred to as V, W, X, Y, and Z. For most of the buildings naming donors have not been set in stone completely, but the largest building, "Z" has been named by the Pritzker family. They have donated several times to the college, including a library reading room and the Marine Sciences building; The "X" dorm was renamed in honor of Ulla R. Searing and the "W" dorm was renamed in honor of Lee and Bob Peterson.

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library taken from under the bell tower.

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library is a joint-use library for both New College students, and the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus.[19] It is also a resource for Manatee Community College as well as for local educators and residents. The local library collection has several hundred thousand items and access to over 11 million items through the State University Libraries system. The library also has a large collection of electronic resources available through the USF library system.[20]

The Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center, which opened in 2001, overlooks Sarasota Bay and draws bay water to supply its research aquariums. The facility supports the biology, marine biology, and environmental sciences programs, three of the most popular fields of study at New College.

The College Hall, overlooking the Sarasota Bay.

In 2005, a long range campus master plan was developed through public workshops held by the design teams from the Folsom Group of Sarasota, Moule & Polyzoides of Pasadena, California, Harper Aiken Partners of St. Petersburg, Florida, Biohabitats Inc. of Canton, Georgia, and Hall Planning and Engineering of Tallahassee, Florida. Extensive participation by the students, faculty, administration, residents of the community, and staff members of local governmental agencies was a major feature of the workshops. The husband and wife architectural firm includes Liz Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides,[21] co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

In 2011, the college opened a new Academic Center and the adjacent Robert and Beverly Koski Academic Plaza. The Academic Center was awarded Gold LEED certification in the fall of 2011 for a number of sustainable features:

  • Toilets flush using residual rainwater from the roof and A/C condensate.
  • Specially designed tanks built-in under the adjoining Koski Plaza collect storm water.
  • Cook Hall, adjacent to College Hall at the New College of Florida.
    Special CO2 room sensors measure air quality and adjust the A/C system accordingly.
  • High-efficiency windows let in natural light.
  • Pavers and high reflective roofing materials reflect sunshine.
  • More than 85 percent of construction site debris was recycled.

The most recent addition to the campus, in 2017, is a 22,000-square-foot addition to the Heiser Natural Sciences Center. The addition, which increased space by 50 percent, added modern physics, chemistry and biology labs, as well as classrooms and office space. It also received Gold LEED certification for its sustainability features.


Program features[edit]

Four core principles form the base of New College's academic philosophy: (1) each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education, (2) the best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students, (3) students' progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades, (4) students should have, from the outset, opportunities to explore in-depth, areas of interest to them. To the end of putting this philosophy into practice, New College uses a unique academic program that differs substantially from those of most other educational institutions in four key ways:[22]

  • Narrative evaluations: at the completion of each course, students receive an evaluation written by the instructor critiquing their performance and course work, along with a satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or incomplete designation. Letter grades and grade-point-averages are not used at New College.[23]
  • Contract System: at the start of each semester, students negotiate a contract with their faculty adviser, specifying their courses of study and expectations for the semester. At the completion of the term, the academic adviser compares the student's performance with the requirements defined in the contract, and determines whether the student has "passed" the contract, or not. Among other requirements, completing seven contracts is a prerequisite to graduation by the college.[24]
  • Independent Study Projects: the month of January is reserved for independent projects at New College, a period when no traditional courses are held. Independent Study Projects run the gamut from short, in-depth, academic research projects to internships, lab work, and international exchanges. Students are required to complete three independent study projects prior to being graduated.[25]
  • Senior Thesis: each student is required to write an original and lengthy thesis in their discipline, and to defend it before a committee of at least three faculty members. Depending on the area of concentration of each student, a senior thesis may take the form of an original research paper, performing and documenting a scientific or social-scientific experiment or research study, or an original composition. This requirement usually is completed during the final two semesters of a student's fourth year.[26]

The academic structure described above is implemented through classes and research projects in a diverse array of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences. With a little over 800 students, an average class size of eighteen and a student to faculty ratio of 10 to 1, the academic environment is small and intimate and known for its intellectual intensity.[22]

In 2016, New College received accreditation for its first graduate program, a master's degree in data science, which enrolled its first students the following year. In 2021, the program was reconfigured as the applied data science program and opened to undergraduates as well as graduate students.


Academic rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[27]82
Washington Monthly[28]54
Religion professor and former New College president Gordon "Mike" Michalson lectures to students during a class in 2003

In 2021, New College was ranked 82nd in the national liberal arts college category by U.S. News & World Report.

In 2015 New College of Florida failed to qualify for a share of a $100M pool of state educational funds after scoring third lowest statewide among Florida colleges and junior colleges on a career issue-focused rating metric. One year post-graduation, only 44% of New College graduates were working or pursuing their education full-time, the lowest in the Florida college system. Median wages for New College graduates employed full-time in Florida one year post-graduation was $21,200, as compared to an average of over $30,000 for the state university system.[29] One critic of the statewide metric noted that New College was disadvantaged by Florida's rating metric due to the high number of graduates that leave Florida for work, or to study abroad, all of which were positive outcomes not counted in the model.[30]

In November 2016, the Board of Governors of the State University System unanimously approved New College's growth plan, which called for expanding enrollment, hiring new faculty and building new facilities to accommodate that growth. The board and legislature also approved $5.4 million in funding for the plan's first phase.[31]

In 2017, after adopting an improvement plan, New College received its first share of the state's performance-based funding ($2.5 million), after exceeding state standards in student retention, wages after graduation, the number of students graduating in areas of strategic emphasis, and cost to students.[32]


In 2018, New College biology professors Jayne Gardiner and Brad Oberle received a $294,198 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to restore mangrove habitats in Sarasota Bay.[33]

Art conservation research study conducted by physicists Mariana Sendova, Valentin Zhelyaskov, and recent alumnus Matthew Ramsey at New College, and the chief conservator at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Michelle Scalera, marked the inauguration of formal collaborations between the long-time neighboring institutions on Bay Shore Road. The collaboration is funded by Sendova's research grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish an on-campus high-resolution Raman spectrography laboratory for the non-destructive analysis of rare objects.[34]

Since 2007, New College has been working with Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. LRRI and NCF have established a joint bio-informatics partnership to provide faculty and their students research opportunities in the emerging fields of systems biology, bio-informatics and computational biology.[35]

Student life[edit]

Student body composition as of May 2, 2022
Race and ethnicity[36] Total
White 67% 67
Hispanic 18% 18
Other[a] 5% 5
Black 4% 4
Asian 4% 4
Foreign national 3% 3
Economic diversity
Low-income[b] 26% 26
Affluent[c] 74% 74

New College Student Alliance[edit]

The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is New College's student government organization. Many decisions relating to student and campus events, academic decisions and policies, the allocation of funds, and recently, the revision of the campus master plan, and the building of new dorm complexes are influenced by the opinions of the student body via the NSCA. "Towne Meetings", held monthly in Palm Court, are the main forum for public debate and are open to all students, faculty, and staff.

The NCSA Constitution states that the purpose of Towne Meetings is "to inform the student body of the actions of the NCSA, to gather opinions and ideas from the students on matters of concern to the college community, to propose and enact informed legislation, and to confirm presidential appointments to NCSA positions as necessary." Students are welcome to make announcements and address the community with important issues at this forum, and they may call for motions on the issues they present. Typical Towne Meetings consist of 60 to 200 students, with 50 being quorum.

The NCSA constitution also is known for articulating the whimsical nature of the student body. For example, article ten (officially known as Article 9 3/4) states that:

The New College Student Alliance shall embrace the following symbols:
     a) [ ] (The Null Set) as Mascot[37]
     b) Palm Court as the Center of the Universe
     c) Our Motto: "There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions"
     d) Our Mission: "That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!"[38]

The NCSA cabinet consists of a president or two co-presidents, a chief of staff, a vice president of student affairs, a vice president of relations and financial affairs, a vice president of academic affairs, a vice president of green affairs (also known as Captain Planet), a vice president of diversity and inclusivity, and an executive secretary.


New College of Florida does not have any varsity athletic teams, but has a club sailing team which is a member of the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (SAISA). The New Crew SRQ rowing club was launched in 2021 and trains at Nathan Benderson Park. The New College powerlifting team competes in regional and state competitions against other Florida colleges and universities.


Most alumni live in Florida, but large clusters of alums gravitate to New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Boston.[citation needed]

New College graduates are relatively few (about 4,000), although everyone who has attended the college for more than one semester, regardless of graduation status, is considered a New College alumnus. They are dated by the year they entered New College, not by graduation year. For example, a student entering New College in 1985 would be considered part of the "Class of 1985." Among these should be counted Mark Weiser, visionary Xerox PARC computer scientist, who conceived of the approach to evolving computer interfaces known as "ubiquitous computing." Weiser attended New College from 1970 through 1974, continuing his education at the University of Michigan (Masters 1977, PhD. 1979).

Among the most prominent New College graduates are William Dudley, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, National Security Advisor to Vice President Harris; University of Pennsylvania law professor and vice provost Anita L. Allen, named to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues; the late mathematician and Fields medalist William Thurston; Margee Ensign, current president of Dickinson College and former president of American University of Nigeria; Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the ACLU and former civil liberties director at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation; bestselling author of Getting Things Done David Allen (author); national MSNBC, NBC and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart; founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Rick Doblin; Emmy Award-winning TV writer/producer Carol Flint; former U.S. representative Lincoln Díaz-Balart; David M. Smolin, professor of law and director for Cumberland School of Law's Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics; "Mother of Sharks" Melissa Cristina Márquez,[39] a marine biologist and science communicator; and attorney Robert Bilott, whose work is the subject of the 2019 movie Dark Waters.


  1. ^ Other consists of Multiracial Americans and those who prefer to not say.
  2. ^ The percentage of students who received an income-based federal Pell grant intended for low-income students.
  3. ^ The percentage of students who are a part of the American middle class at the bare minimum.


  1. ^ (PDF) {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "New College of Florida names Patricia Okker, Ph.D. as President-Elect". WWSB. April 21, 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Quick Facts : New College of Florida". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Fast Facts". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
  5. ^ "New College of Florida". State University System of Florida. Archived from the original on 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2001-01-20.
  6. ^ "Quick Facts". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2022-01-07.
  7. ^ A Brief History - New College of Florida, The public liberal arts honors college for the state of Florida Archived 2008-06-20 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Archived 2007-08-14 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Terte, Robert H. (July 24, 1961). "New College due in Florida in '64; Privately Endowed School to Be Open to All Races". The New York Times. p. 21.
  10. ^ "News Notes: Classroom and Campus". The New York Times. March 1, 1964. pp. Page E7.
  11. ^ a b c "New College Catalog: What is New College of Florida". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  12. ^ a b "Innovative Florida College Saved From Bankruptcy by Ex-Trustees". The New York Times. January 26, 1977. p. 28.
  13. ^ Klein, Barry (May 11, 2001). "The New College try". St. Petersburg Times. pp. Page 1A.
  14. ^ "New College of Florida". State University System of Florida. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  15. ^ "USF Sarasota-Manatee - New Campus". Archived from the original on 2007-07-15. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  16. ^ Florida Statutes 1004.32(3)(a) and (b).
  17. ^ "New College - The Campus and Facilities". Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  18. ^ NCF .edu Archived 2006-09-11 at the Wayback Machine, Ringling
  19. ^ "Jane Bancroft Cook Library - academic success services". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  20. ^ "About the Library".
  21. ^ "Biography of Stefanos Polyziodes". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  22. ^ a b "The New College Academic Program". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  23. ^ Michalson, Gordon E. (2002). "The Case for Narrative Evaluation: Promoting Learning Without Grades". Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning. Archived from the original on 2006-11-12. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  24. ^ "New College Admissions: The Academic Contract System". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  25. ^ "New College Admissions: ISPs (Independent Study Projects)". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  26. ^ Interested parties may search the thesis through New College of Florida's Digital Repository. "New College Admissions: The Senior Thesis Project". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  27. ^ "Best Colleges 2021: National Liberal Arts Colleges". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  28. ^ "2021 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  29. ^ "New College receives poor grade from Florida |".
  30. ^ "One liberal arts college loses money after its state adopts a performance funding model". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  31. ^ "Power in Numbers: New College embarks on growth plan | Sarasota". Your Observer. 2017-07-06. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  32. ^ Florida, Lloyd DunkelbergerNews Service of. "New College of Florida, USFSM receive performance funding". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  33. ^ "College Awarded Grant to Restore Sarasota Bay Mangrove Habitat". Sarasota Magazine. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  34. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  35. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2009-04-01. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  36. ^ "College Scorecard: New College of Florida". United States Department of Education. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  37. ^ New College Student Alliance. The Constitution of the New College Student Alliance. New College of Florida. pp. xv. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  38. ^ "NCSAConstitution-4-18-12.pdf". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  39. ^ "Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Latina women in science (featuring NCF Alum Melissa Cristina Márquez)". New College News. 2021-10-13. Retrieved 2021-12-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Paulson, Lawrence and Luke Salisbury. 2014. First-Class Times: Writing about New College's Charter Classes. Maryland: Shambling Gate Press., pp. 224.
  • Elmendorf, John. 1975. Transmitting information about experiments in higher education. New York: Academy for Educational Development, Inc., pp. 43.
  • Glasser Kay E. 1977. The New College Story as told by One Hundred And Three Alumni. Ph.D., pp. 20.

External links[edit]