New College of Florida

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New College of Florida
New College of Florida
Former names
New College of the University of South Florida
TypePublic liberal arts college
Endowment$25 million[1]
PresidentDonal O'Shea
Students838 (2018)[2]
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 honors college in Sarasota, Florida. It was founded as a private institution and is now an autonomous college of the State University System of Florida.[3][4] It severed its ties with the University of South Florida in 2001 to become the eleventh independent school in the Florida State University System and adopted its current name: New College of Florida.


New College was conceived during the late 1950s, and founded in 1960 as a private college by local civic leaders for academically talented students. Financial assistance was provided by the Board of Homeland Missions of the United Church of Christ.[5] George F. Baughman served as the first president from 1961 to 1965.[6]

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.[7] Open to students of all races, genders, and religious affiliations, New College opened its doors in 1964 to a premier class of 101 students.[8][9] 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.[9][10]

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. 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.[9][10]

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 Florida State University System, and adopted its current name, New College of Florida.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]


New College's 144-acre (0.58 km2) bayfront campus is located in west Sarasota, Florida, approximately fifty miles to the 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.[14] 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, the former home of Edith and Charles Ringling (today called College Hall), the former home of Hester Ringling Lancaster Sanford (today called Cook Hall), and the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples (today called Caples Hall). 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 gracious homes are used as classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices and their expansive properties provide sites for the modern developments on the bayfront campus.[15]

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; "X" recently was named in honor of Ulla R. Searing.

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library taken from under the bell tower. Nov 23.

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.[16] 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 10 million items through the State University Libraries system. The library also has a large collection of electronic resources available through the USF library system.[17]

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,[18] co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The most recent addition to campus is the 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.
  • 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.


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:[19]

  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • 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.[23]

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.[19]


University rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[24] 90
Washington Monthly[25] 29
Religion professor and former New College president Gordon "Mike" Michalson lectures to students during a class in 2003

In 2017, New College was ranked tied 90th 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.[26] 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.[27]


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 Dr. 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.[28]

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.[29]

Student life[edit]

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[30]
     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!"[31]

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.


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

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 president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York William Dudley; Ambassador Nancy McEldowney; Law Professor Anita L. Allen, named to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues; Mathematician and Fields Medalist William Thurston; Jennifer Granick Attorney, Director of Civil Liberties, Stanford Center for Internet and Society and former Civil Liberties Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation; bestselling author of Getting Things Done David Allen (author); national Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart; founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Rick Doblin; Emmy-award-winning TV writer/producer Carol Flint; former U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart; CEO of Barnie's Coffee & Tea Jonathan Smiga; David M. Smolin,professor of law and director for Cumberland School of Law's Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics; internet personality Merlin Mann; singer-songwriter Jaymay; pop-punk band The Dollyrots; Malcolm Brenner, author of Wet Goddess ; "Queen of the Serial Killer Groupies" Sondra London; the founders of the Erowid Center; David Pini; and notorious Mexican uxoricide Bruce Beresford-Redman.[32]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-12-14. Retrieved 2010-03-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Quick Facts : New College of Florida". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Fast Facts". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
  4. ^ "New College of Florida". State University System of Florida. Archived from the original on 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2001-01-20.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Archived 2007-08-14 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ 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. Page 21.
  8. ^ "News Notes: Classroom and Campus". The New York Times. March 1, 1964. pp. Page E7.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b "Innovative Florida College Saved From Bankruptcy by Ex-Trustees". The New York Times. January 26, 1977. p. Page 28.
  11. ^ Klein, Barry (May 11, 2001). "The New College try". St. Petersburg Times. pp. Page 1A.
  12. ^ "USF Sarasota-Manatee - New Campus". Archived from the original on 2007-07-15. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  13. ^ Florida Statutes 1004.32(3)(a) and (b).
  14. ^ "New College - The Campus and Facilities". Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  15. ^ NCF .edu Archived 2006-09-11 at the Wayback Machine, Ringling
  16. ^ "Jane Bancroft Cook Library - academic success services". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  17. ^ "About the Library".
  18. ^ "Biography of Stefanos Polyziodes". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  19. ^ a b "The New College Academic Program". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "New College Admissions: The Academic Contract System". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  22. ^ "New College Admissions: ISPs (Independent Study Projects)". New College of Florida. Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Best Colleges 2020: National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  25. ^ "2019 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  26. ^ "New College receives poor grade from Florida |".
  27. ^ "One liberal arts college loses money after its state adopts a performance funding model". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  28. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  29. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2009-04-01. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  30. ^ New College Student Alliance. The Constitution of the New College Student Alliance. New College of Florida. pp. xv. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  31. ^ "NCSAConstitution-4-18-12.pdf". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  32. ^ "'Survivor' Producer Speaks Out From Mexican Prison: "There Is Less of Me and My Soul Every Day"". Retrieved 5 June 2018.

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]