To say the least, Doral College does things differently. Consider just three points of distinction. First, it’s a high school that now offers its students a dual-enrollment status that allows them to earn college credits and high school ones simultaneously. Second, in an era of soaring college prices, attending the program has no out-of-pocket cost for most students there. Finally, it strongly emphasizes character in nearly every aspect of its curriculum and, as an institution heavily reliant on fees paid by public schools, does so without any overt reference to religious faith. In this installment of R Street’s series on character education, Virginia Gentles, explores how an institution this distinctive has grown and thrived.

Since opening its doors in 2011, Doral has served students also completing high school classes, one of a growing group of early enrollment colleges around the country. It takes all students that meet academic standards and serves a significant number from disadvantaged backgrounds. (All fees are paid by their school districts.) Given that such early college experience correlates strongly with college completion, this also gives these students a leg up. Historically, it has awarded mostly Associates’ Degrees (some of them to people just 18 years old), as well as college credit for those finishing their studies at other institutions. Starting in 2020, it will begin to offer bachelor’s degrees as well. The curriculum is infused with a strong dose of virtue ethics that draws on a number of not-explicitly religious sources, most prominently the work of management theorist, Stephen Covey. The resulting institution does not just prepare students well academically, it also makes a strong effort to shape them into better human beings.

— Eli Lehrer, President, R Street Institute


After years of emphasizing character development in both courses and school culture, Doral College launched a formal character education initiative for dual-enrollment high school students in summer 2019. The school’s educational model fosters the ethical and character education of high school students by embedding character formation lessons into the school’s dual-enrollment curriculum. In addition, the affiliated Doral Leadership Institute (DLI)—a leadership program for educators aspiring to become instructional leaders—also embeds character education into the program curriculum.

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