When Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed six conservative members to the New College of Florida board of trustees on Jan. 6, top state officials expressed a desire to turn the Sarasota school into “a Hillsdale of the South.” It’s a reference to Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in southern Michigan known for its increasing ties to DeSantis’ education initiatives.

Here is a look at both institutions:

New College of Florida

Location: Sarasota

Enrollment: 660 (Fall 2021)

Cost of attendance: $21,677 (Florida residents 2022-23)

Leadership: President Patricia Okker, the school’s first female president, and a 13-member board of trustees.

Student body: 67% female, 63% white. Described as largely progressive or liberal in student surveys.

Ranking: No. 76 among national liberal arts colleges and No. 5 among public liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report.


• Founded in 1960 as a private college.

• Joined the State University System in 1975 as part of the University of South Florida.

• In 2001, the Legislature designated New College as an independent university to be known as the “honors college for the state of Florida.”

• Since 2013, the college has added a special program to link students to the work world, a marine biology research vessel, a “food forest carbon farm” with 50 species of plants, a master’s degree in data sciences, and a $10 million natural sciences complex.

Quirky fact: When the campus was dedicated in 1962, soils from Harvard University and New College were mixed “as a symbol of the shared lofty ideals of the two institutions.”

RELATED: With New College gambit, DeSantis aims to ‘recapture higher education’

Hillsdale College

Location: Hillsdale, Mich.

Enrollment: 1,602

Cost of attendance: $43,402 (2022-23)

Leadership: President Larry P. Arnn and a 35-member board of trustees.

Student body: 51% male. (The college does not break down its student body by race and ethnicity, a result of its long-time “policy of non-discrimination.”)

Ranking: No. 48 among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report.


• Founded in 1844 by Freewill Baptists as Michigan Central College. Later changed its name after moving to Hillsdale, Mich.

• The school says it was the first American college with a charter prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion or sex, and that it “became an early force for the abolition of slavery.”

• Became known in the 1970s for defying the federal government’s requirement that it count students by race. Hillsdale later rejected all federal funding and replaced it with private donations.

• Remains a non-denominational conservative Christian college offering what it calls a “classical liberal arts” education.

Quirky fact: The chairperson of Hillsdale’s board of trustees is Pat Sajak, the 76-year-old host of television’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

Sources: College websites; State University System of Florida; U.S. News & World Report; Niche.com.