Career Education Shares Got Crushed: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of for-profit education company Career Education (Nasdaq: CECO  ) clearly deserved detention today after falling as much as 19% in intraday trading.

So what: The trigger for the plunge was Career Education's fourth-quarter earnings report. Revenue for the quarter fell 17% from last year, to $440 million, while an operating profit of $18 million in the prior year was reversed to a $169 million operating loss. Though adjusted earnings per share fell drastically YOY, they remained in the black and managed to top analysts' estimates.

Now what: It's been a rough go of it for the for-profit education sector over the past couple of years and while pretty much all of the industry participants have ended up under the storm cloud, some were hit a bit harder than others. Career Education found itself in the latter group and had its CEO step down late last year after it was found that some of the company's schools were misreporting job-placement rates.

The road ahead will be a tough one for Career Education. That's reflected in the big drop in financial results as well as the 14% YOY dip in student population. However, it may be even more evident in the fact new student starts -- which provide a peek into future results -- fell 24% from 2010.

Want to keep up to date on Career Education? Add it to your Watchlist.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or Facebook.

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