© 2024 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New college offers scholarships to draw students

A student makes her way past the sign at New College of Florida, Jan. 20, 2023, in Sarasota, Fla.
Chris O'Meara/AP
A student makes her way past the sign at New College of Florida, Jan. 20, 2023, in Sarasota, Fla.

As Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders try to remake New College of Florida, the school is tapping into $15 million from the Legislature to offer $10,000 scholarships to prospective students.

A joint legislative panel in February approved steering $15 million to New College for providing scholarships, recruiting faculty members and other expenses. State university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues told lawmakers that the Sarasota school’s trustees would have authority over how the money is spent.

In an email last week directed to “friends with college-age students,” John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, a non-profit conservative group, plugged the scholarships.

“Students should consider New College in Sarasota quickly being touted as the Hillsdale College of the southeast,” a headline on the email said, referring to a liberal-arts college in Michigan that is prominent among conservatives.

RELATED: Florida lawmakers funnel $15 million to New College to recruit new faculty

Gov. Ron DeSantis this year shook up leadership at New College by appointing six conservative members to the Board of Trustees. The board subsequently voted to remove former New College President Patricia Okker and install Richard Corcoran, a former Republican House speaker and state education commissioner, as interim president.

Stemberger’s email shared a message from Corcoran, who wrote that scholarships would be available to “each qualified first-time-in-college or transfer student” who enrolls. The $10,000 scholarships would be available in addition to other scholarships or financial aid provided to students, Corcoran said.

“New College is the place for the rapidly growing population of students who are looking for a place to explore their intellectual curiosity, pursue their passions, and gain a better understanding of the world without having to abandon who they are and what they believe,” Corcoran wrote.

Corcoran also said New College trustees “plan to invest as much as $100 million” over the next several years “to create a beautiful, unrivaled and preeminent” university.

Stemberger has long been a prominent figure in conservative circles, and the Florida Family Policy Council advocates on a range of issues, such as opposing abortion and what it calls the “gay agenda.” DeSantis is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the group’s May 20 annual dinner in Orlando, according to the group’s website.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ recent picks for the board will face a confirmation hearing Wednesday in a Senate committee.

One of the governor’s appointees, Christopher Rufo, is a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Rufo has served as a key figure in DeSantis’ effort to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Rufo also has been vocal about the push to revamp New College’s campus culture.

“We will be shutting down low-performing, ideologically-captured academic departments and hiring new faculty. The student body will be recomposed over time: some current students will self-select out, others will graduate; we'll recruit new students who are mission-aligned,” Rufo said in a tweet on Feb. 28.

New College, which is part of the state’s network of 12 universities, also has an effort underway to recruit transfer students from state colleges. Through a program dubbed “NCF Transform,” New College is advertising additional scholarships for transfer students who meet certain criteria.

“The transition planning includes joint advising from both schools, a $3,500 per year renewing scholarship, and an academic pathway to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in two years after transferring,” information on the New College website says.

Ryan Dailey - News Service of Florida