For-profit higher education, with its emphasis on serving part-time, older students, has not traditionally been in the business of building dormitories.
But DeVry University dedicated its first dormitory last week, at its Fremont campus, outside of San Francisco. Not only is the dorm a first for DeVry, which has campuses in 22 states, but it goes against the pattern at national, for-profit colleges. The University of Phoenix and Corinthian Colleges, for example, don't have any dorms or plans to build them.
The Fremont campus has demographics that are not typical of for-profit higher education -- most of its students are enrolled full-time and are traditional college age. And Ben Elias, dean of finance and administration at the campus, said that those demographics shaped the decision to try a dorm, and that the university is watching the project before determining whether any others will be built.
The push for the dorm largely came from students and parents, Elias said, who complained about the high cost and long commutes involved in living in the Bay Area. Taylor Hall  is right on DeVry's campus and its fees compare favorably with those elsewhere. Students at DeVry pay $6,600 for a shared room or $8,800 for a private room for two semesters. Rooms come with cable television and high-speed Internet, fitness rooms in the dorm, and an all-you-can eat meal plan. (The national average this year for room and board is $6,636 at public colleges and $7,791 at private colleges, according to data released last week by the College Board, and students at DeVry report that off-campus housing in the Bay Area far exceeds those averages.)
With the dorm just opened, 200 of the 300 spaces have been filled, and DeVry expects to reach capacity within a year. The university has hired resident advisors and also started student activities so the students have some non-academic activities available.
"Study after study shows that students who live on the campus are involved with college life are generally more positive about their experience," Elias said.
DeVry's Fremont campus has about 1,400 students in all, many of them in business and engineering programs. Since the dormitory opened, Elias said that the campus has seen increased interest in applications, especially from women.
He predicted that the dorm would not only attract students, but profits too. "As a business, we have to look at all of our assets, and we expect this to be a profitable center," he said.
Matt Ganja, a third-year student who is working on a degree in network communication management, said that the dorm significantly improved his daily life. He used to live in a complex that is popular with students at DeVry and some California State University students about 13 miles away. On bad traffic days, of which there are many, he spent two hours driving to campus. "Now I'm not more than a few feet away," he said.
Ganja, who said that he's seen plenty of dorms on other campuses, called Taylor "the best I've seen."
The cafeteria is arranged like a food court, but the workers are willing to custom prepare anything students want from their facility. "It's an awesome set-up," he said. "They do everything they can to make you happy and feed you anything you want. It's like having your own IHOP every morning."