The breakup came unexpectedly and without explanation.
After years of partnering with Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami Dade College was tersely informed that its medical ultrasound students would have to find someplace else to train. Jackson would no longer provide the hands-on instruction students needed to graduate.
Behind the scenes, Jackson was being aggressively courted by a fast-growing for-profit school: Dade Medical College. Dade Medical lacked MDC’s long track record and strong academic reputation, but it was willing to do something the public school could not: pay for access.
In 2010, Dade Medical and Jackson signed a deal that paid the hospital $7,500 for each ultrasound student training spot. To date, Dade Medical has paid the hospital more than $330,000.
As a state-funded community college with a tight budget, MDC couldn’t compete, said Medical Campus President Armando Ferrer — at least not without hiking tuition costs. A two-year ultrasound degree at MDC costs about $8,500. A similar degree from Dade Medical runs $47,050.
“Basically we cannot afford to pay for clinical sites, because we would have to pass that on to our students,” Ferrer said. “We try to maintain the lowest cost that we can, with the highest quality.”
MDC’s experience reflects an emerging education and healthcare concern: With a growing number of health-related colleges, many of them for-profit, competition for essential training spots has become increasingly fierce. In nursing, the Florida Legislature directly encouraged this heightened competition, thanks to laws passed in 2009 and 2010 that made it easier for colleges to get new nursing programs approved.