Why Shares of Career Education Corp. Plummeted

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What: Shares of Career Education Corp.  (NASDAQ: CECO  ) were getting sent to detention today, falling as much as 30% after a forgettable first-quarter earnings report.

So what: The for-profit educator saw its enrollment decline as total students fell 12% to 55,700, while the number of new students dropped 6% to 16,030. As a result, its net loss per share from continuing operations expanded from $0.30 a year ago to $0.71, worse than estimates of a $0.42-per-share loss. Revenue dropped 14.6% to $243.1 million, also missing the consensus at $261.9 million. 

Now what: Despite the underwhelming performance, CEO Scott Steffey said the year was off to a "good start" and said management was focused on efforts to transform the company. There were also positives in the quarter including a sequential improvement in the enrollment decline, and a 32% improvement in its new student conversion rate. Still, the big misses on top and bottom lines highlight how far Career Education Corp. is from profitability. Pay attention to new student enrollment going forward as that figure could soon turn positive, which would help drive a turnaround for the company.

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