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 online for-profit educator Capella Education (Nasdaq: CPLA) were getting schooled in how fast a stock can drop as shares slid as much as 18% in intraday trading after the company announced fourth-quarter results.

So what: For-profit education companies haven't exactly been surrounded by a supportive environment lately. The government has been putting on the squeeze, while enrollment has cooled considerably. To be sure, Capella's fourth-quarter report showed continued growth -- revenue was up 21% year-over-year while profit per share climbed 24%, even though it missed analysts' estimates by a penny. However, in its earnings release, management uttered the one word that never fails to make Mr. Market shudder: "uncertain." The company is unsure about demand, government regulation, and the competitive environment. What it's surer of, however, is that the first quarter isn't going to look all that hot, particularly when it comes to new enrollment -- the company sees it dropping 35% from the first quarter of 2010.

Now what: It's notable that this isn't simply a Capella issue; competitors like Strayer (Nasdaq: STRA), Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL), and DeVry (NYSE: DV) are facing the same industry dynamics. Due to these problems, the market has deeply discounted these stocks, though it's possible that even at these levels they still aren't bargains. However, pessimism is so overwhelming here that I wouldn't be surprised if there were some bargains hiding out somewhere in the industry.

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of 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 on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.