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American Public (APEI) Up to Strong Buy on Solid Q1 Results

American Public Education, Inc. APEI was upgraded to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) on May 11 after the company reported strong first-quarter 2016 results. Shares of the company gained more than 12% on May 10 following the earnings announcement.

Quarterly Results

First-quarter adjusted earnings of 64 cents per share surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 45 cents by 42.2%. Earnings were significantly above management’s projection of 47–52 cents.

Moreover, adjusted earnings per share surged 25.5% year over year on higher-than-expected revenues and profits.

Total revenue of $84.0 million surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $82.0 million by 2.4%. Although revenues dipped 1.6% year over year, this was slightly better than the company’s expected range of 2–4%. Revenues declined at both American Public University System (APUS) and Hondros College of Nursing (HCON).

Revenues dipped 1.6% at APUS to $76.3 million due to lower enrollment trends, thereby offsetting the increase in revenues from higher tuition fees implemented last year.

Total enrollment at APUS slipped 4%, owing to a decline in enrollment of students using Federal Student Aid (FSA) – a trend over the past few quarters.

The decline was, however, at the lower end of management’s expected range of a decrease of 4–8%. Enrollments by continuing students slipped approximately 2% year over year.

New student enrollments (student starts) at APUS fell 15%, which was also at the lower end of the company’s expectation of a 15–20% decline.

Quarterly revenues, enrollment levels and earnings were impacted by persistent volatility and weakness in enrollment of students under the Federal Student Aid (FSA) and Tuition Assistance (TA) program.

Revenues at HCON fell 3.6% to $7.7 million due to lower enrollment trends.

Operating income rose 10.3% to $16.0 million as 14.4% increase in profits at APUS offset a 36.5% plunge in profits at HCON. Operating margins rose 210 basis points year over year to 19% in the quarter. Lower costs and expenses translated to higher profits.

The company’s focus on improving student persistence has been hurting enrollment trends and overall revenues. However, the same factors led to lower bad debt expense and higher margins.

Stocks to Consider

Other schools stocks worth considering include Capella Education Co. CPLA, New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. EDU and Lincoln Educational Services Corporation LINC. While New Oriental Education also sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), both Capella and Lincoln Educational hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
 
AMER PUB EDUCAT (APEI): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CAPELLA EDUCATN (CPLA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
NEW ORIENTAL ED (EDU): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
LINCOLN EDUCATL (LINC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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