Don't expect to find any actual college students at Doral College; it currently doesn't enroll any. That hasn't prevented the college from collecting more than $850,000 in taxpayer dollars. Academica's venture into higher education draws enrollment and funding from a lucrative captive audience: students attending Academica-managed charter schools.
In 2010, Doral Academy set aside $400,000 in public funds to build a college on its own campus. As reported by the Miami Herald, "Today, Doral Academy and Academica-affiliated high schools collectively pay the college about $460,000 to provide courses to 120 high school students." The benefit for these 120 students is unclear, as Doral College is unaccredited and unauthorized to offer dual-enrollment classes. The benefit for Academica, on the other hand, is a 7.5% cut of Doral College fees.
This cozy arrangement alarms public school officials, but meaningful oversight of the relationship between Academica, its charter schools, and Doral College may fall beyond the authority of current regulatory bodies. As Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado asks, "Where do you draw the line between the charter provider and a [private] college?"
Academica's powerful political network helped carve out this unique and profitable niche. Doral College President Anitere Flores is a state senator connected to Academica CEO Fernando Zulueta. Formerly an education advisor to Jeb Bush, Flores helped Doral College secure a license to operate from Florida's Commission for Independent Education. State Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. is also on the Doral College payroll.
Read the Miami Herald story here. Image from flickr.