Florida College Sees Highest Student Dropout Rate after DeSantis’ ‘Censorship,’ Report Shows

A Florida college has reported the lowest student retention in its history following Governor Ron DeSantis’s conservative revamp.

The multi-million-dollar overhaul of the previously liberal New College of Florida (NCF) has resulted in a loss of 27% of the student body in the first year, making it the lowest student retention rate in the college’s history.

The college in early October reported that its enrollment was sharply declining. As announced earlier by its provost, the college more than doubled its normal loss of first-year students between fall semesters as students fled the overhaul.

‘Renaissance’

Since DeSantis joined the Republican primary race for president, he has focused on battling liberal causes across Florida, with NCF transformation at the center of his efforts to stop “woke indoctrination.”

Under his supervision, the college has witnessed significant changes, from the college leadership team to the faculty.

For example, six board members of the trustees were reportedly replaced by conservative-leaning DeSantis allies.

Additionally, the board of trustees removed the college’s president and appointed the former education commissioner as a replacement.

No More Gender Studies!

The new school administration abolished gender studies, eliminated the campus Diversity Office, and fired its academic librarian. One of the trustees described the gender studies program as “more of an ideological movement,” as reported by The Guardian last month.

Ryan Terry, NCF’s vice president of communications and marketing, hailed the ongoing transformation in the campus as “a renaissance” that would restore the institution’s traditional passion for “creating lifelong learners.”

However, Nicholas Clarkson, then an assistant professor of gender studies, who resigned in August, criticized the ongoing changes as “a reactionary attempt to prevent cultural shifts” that scare the conservatives. 

Mass Exodus

Against the backdrop of the college’s transformation, about 125 students discontinued their studies at the university and either dropped out or transferred to other colleges and universities. Dozens of staff and faculty also quit.

The dramatic departure of students and staff from the college was attributed to the hostile right-wing takeover of NCF, with Florida’s current commissioner of education, Manny Diaz, Jr, expressing the resolve of the state officials to transform the NCF.

According to the news outlet, “the exodus of the staff represents a staggering 40% of the entire faculty employed during the spring semester of the 2022-23 academic year,” as the transformation that began 10 months ago continued unabated.

Clarkson also described the mass resignation of faculty staff as an indictment of the actions taken by the Governor and his allies in the board of trustees.

Admission and Accommodation Policies Shift

The college also saw a significant shift in students’ admission and accommodation policies. According to the Herald-Tribune, the college lowered its standard admission requirements and accepted students with lower test scores and grade-point averages than the previous years.

With the revised admission standards, the school enrolled 115 athletes, making the total number of students 325, which was higher than the previous admission.

Additionally, the school assigned apartment-styled dormitories initially reserved for students in their third and fourth years of study to many newly arrived athletes. This was a departure from the college’s long-standing practice that led to many students living in hostels beyond walking distance of the campus.

“It’s a complete disregard and abandonment of the current student body,” Vivian Cargille, a third-year student majoring in marine biology, told The Guardian. “[The administration] is trying to erase the culture on campus, and they’re not prioritizing academics for students anymore.”

Discrimination and ‘Censorship’

With the NCF’s transformation underway, what DeSantis had described as a culture of woke indoctrination has turned into censorship, fueling anxiety among students over their prospects at the seaside college.

One of the transgender students who had lost hope in their prospects at the university told The Guardian that gender-neutral signage in some restrooms had been removed. The school has also painted over student murals and banned the wearing of pins supporting LGBTQ+ or Black Lives Matter (BLM), according to a New York Times report.

“I am really concerned about what this experiment means for the future of higher education in the United States,” said Clarkson. “This is a test case for a conservative overhaul of higher education – and it isn’t going to stay isolated to New College or Florida.”

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the college for reportedly discriminating against LGBTQ+ and disabled students.

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This article has been produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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