New College of Florida - History

History

Originally conceived during the late 1950s, New College was 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 Congregational Christian Church. George F. Baughman served as the first president from 1961 to 1965.

Envisioned as a new attempt at liberal arts education in the South, the core values of the freedom of inquiry and the responsibility of individual students for their own education were to be implemented through a unique academic program. Open to students of all races, genders, and religious affiliations, New College opened its doors in 1964 to a premier class of 101 students. 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.

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 bay front 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 campus sharing the campus.

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. 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.

Today, as Florida's independent honors college, New College retains its original distinctive academic program, while enjoying the benefits and accessibility that being a public university affords. Along with a group of other selective and innovative public liberal arts institutions, 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.

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