Shares of DeVry Education (NYSE:DV) were surging Friday after the for-profit educator beat earnings estimates and got an analyst upgrade. Shares finished up 14%, hitting their highest point in more than two years as its earnings per share of $0.86 topped expectations of $0.75. Piper Jaffray also lifted its rating on DeVry from neutral to outperform as analyst Peter Appert noted, "continued strength in health/international units and signs of life at DeVry University suggest the worst is behind us."   While government investigations and concerns about student loans and the value provided by for-profit educators have pressured industry stocks in recent years, DeVry has managed  better than most. Shares are up 30% this year, making it the best performer out of 13 stocks in Bloomberg's for-profit education index.  

The DeVry differentiator
Though much of the domestic education industry suffers from macroeconomic headwinds, DeVry has found an outlet from the industry struggles through diversification. Its flagship school DeVry University has seen continuing enrollment declines, though those are narrowing as new student enrollment dipped just 2.5% as overall enrollment fell 10.4%. But DeVry's real strength comes from its growing institutions, particularly DeVry Brazil and the Chamberlain College of Nursing. 

At Chamberlain, revenue grew 34% in the past quarter as new student enrollment jumped 55%, driving a 37% increase in total student enrollment. Chamberlain also received approval to open a second campus next year in the Houston area, and aims to open further locations in Michigan and Las Vegas in 2015, pending approval,  adding to the 13 campuses it already operates. Those new campuses should help ensure continuing growth at Chamberlain, and the nursing school is one of DeVry's more profitable academies, with operating margins in the low 20% range.  On the earnings call, CEO Daniel Hamburger sounded excited about the potential of Chamberlain, saying, "Boy! We see a lot of opportunity for Chamberlain because the demand is so great in the world of nursing." 

He also said that 15% enrollment growth was an achievable goal for the school over the next several years.

Meanwhile, at DeVry Brazil, revenues increased 15% on a 20% increase in new student enrollment and a 13.5% uptick in total students. During the quarter, the Brazil division gained approval for nine new degree programs, in subjects like industrial engineering and business administration, which will expand the school's appeal and further grow enrollment. Management also said more degree programs are queued up, awaiting approval. 

Foolish takeaway
Though DeVry still saw an overall revenue decline in the quarter, those two schools now contribute 42% of the company's total students, up from 35% just a year ago, meaning more than half of its enrollment could soon come from growing institutions. That diversification gives it an advantage over competitors such as Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL) whose flagship school, the University of Phoeni,x lost 50,000 students or 16.8% of its enrollment in its most recent quarter. A slide like that is going to be difficult to recover from even if Apollo sees growth from its smaller schools. 

Considering the growth at its nursing in Brazil schools and the success in turning around DeVry University, DeVry seems like a solid pick in the education industry. 

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Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.