New College Short of Student Targets

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY MAR 4, 2019

New College of Florida for years has boasted a reputation as a small, liberal arts college and a prestigious Ivy League-like part of the State University System. But as the school looks to grow its student body—and with it revenues from tuition and housing fees—the school has fallen short of planned targets.

A five-year plan to grow enrollment counted on New College welcoming 830 students last fall, but the school had just 809 undergraduates. Over winter break, the number contracted more with many students not returning. As of a Board of Trustees meeting last week, the school counted 756 contracts.

“There’s a large assumption we always will lose some in the summer as well,” O’Shea told trustees. Not to mention the school expects 180 to 190 students to graduate this spring.

State officials would like the college to have 860 students come the Fall term. But that means the college needs roughly 300 new students to enroll. It expects about 250.

Ana Comer-Woods, New College marketing and communications director, said the school wants to ramp up its recruiting efforts in coming years, and is targeting 10th graders so they will think of New College for college visits next year and applications the following year.

“Our admissions team will work very aggressively to reach students in those younger grades," she said.

Meanwhile, the start has provided funding for a five-year growth plan with the expectation New College will start the Fall term in 2023 with 1,200 students enrolled.

Some trustees expressed alarm at missing early targets. “I’m sorry, but this is the lifeblood of our business,” said Trustee John Lilly. He expressed concern New College officials won’t have any good answers when lawmakers in the Legislative Session, which begins Tuesday, ask for a report on enrollment numbers.

O’Shea said the school faces certain challenges in that five state universities in Florida now have larger Honors programs than New College, and they all have more financial aid available. But New College maintains its reputation as the honors campus.

But O’Shea and Comer-Woods both expressed confidence the five-year target can still be attained. At the same time, the school doesn’t want to lower admissions standards and bring in students who won’t succeed under New College’s rigorous and largely independently driven curriculum.

For the moment, local lawmakers say New College just needs more time.

“They understand they have to move up,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. “They will make it. But you can’t sacrifice the quality of students and everything else they are doing just for sake of growing.”

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