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A residence hall for students, usually a multistoried facility, with individual rooms or suites (housing one or more students each), opening onto long corridors, with several common bathrooms. Derived from the Latin word dormitorium, “large room for sleeping,” dormitories may or may not have common rooms, a common dining facility or common study facilities, depending on the layout of the particular school or college. Segregated by gender until the 1960s, college dormitories and many dormitory rooms are now often coeducational and may or may not be staffed by supervising faculty or older students and counselors. In one instance, three institutions joined together to build a single $150-million “megadorm” to house their students. Called University Center, the new facility is essentially a standard apartment building in downtown Chicago. University of Chicago and DePaul each own 40% of the dorm, or 700 beds, and Roosevelt University owns the remaining 300 beds. Made up of apartments and suites, the facility plans to rent unused beds to students at nearby Illinois Institute of Art, the City Colleges of Chicago, and Harrington Institute of Interior Design, which are within a 12-block radius.
Dormitory residence is usually required at most boarding schools and at military colleges. It is optional at most other colleges and at universities, which charge dormitory fees over and above the costs of attending classes. About 2 million, or nearly 12%, of America’s nearly 17 million college students live in dormitories.
Dormitories date back to the earliest European universities of the 12th century, when boys as young as 14 flocked to cities such as Paris to attend lectures. The early universities, however, provided no housing or maintenance, and the boys themselves congregated in rented quarters called hospitia (hostels). By the end of the 12th century, many instructors began operating such hospitia, endowing some to provide free lodging for the poorest scholars in exchange for work and other services. Endowed hospitia whose rooms were reserved exclusively for scholarly colleagues were called collegia, or “societies,” thus giving rise to the word college for institutions of higher learning.
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