New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran offered $5,000 bonuses to staff members who hit an enrollment target of 300 new students, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, raising questions about whether the move violated federal law.
“High achievement deserves a reward, and increased pay will be implemented to recognize the diligent work of the admissions team in assembling this record-breaking class,” NCF spokesperson Nathan March told the newspaper in defense of the practice.
(In an email to Inside Higher Ed after publication, March disputed the notion that the pay increases were bonuses. “There has never been and never will be a bonus or other incentive pay based on enrollment,” he wrote. “The salaries for New College staff, including admissions recruiters, has [sic] long been among the lowest in the State University System.”)
Colleges receiving federal financial aid are legally barred from offering “any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments.”
Staff members, speaking anonymously, told the Herald-Tribune they were concerned about other tactics Corcoran employed, alleging that he misrepresented the college in brochures and encouraged staff to use photos from newer buildings at nearby University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. The NCF spokesperson claimed staff members misconstrued Corcoran’s comments and denied that he was “operating in the gray” ethically.
The allegations over improper bonuses are the latest in a string of controversies for NCF since Florida governor Ron DeSantis appointed multiple new board members in January to lead a conservative restructuring of the state institution. Since then, the new board—stocked with conservative members—has pushed out NCF’s president and replaced her with Corcoran at a much higher salary; eliminated the college’s diversity, equity and inclusion office; and denied tenure to five professors, citing “extraordinary circumstances” at the college.
DeSantis, who is running for president in 2024, has made education central to his candidacy.