Q1 2012 Earnings Call
October 25, 2011 4:30 pm ET
Patrick J. Unzicker - Vice President and Controller
Joan Bates - Director, Investor Relations
Daniel M. Hamburger - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director
Richard M. Gunst - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President and Treasurer
Sara Gubins - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division
Trace A. Urdan - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division
Paul Ginocchio - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division
Peter P. Appert - Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division
Scott A. Schneeberger - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division
Suzanne E. Stein - Morgan Stanley, Research Division
Jeffrey Y. Volshteyn - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Kelly A. Flynn - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division
Jason P. Anderson - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division
Amy W. Junker - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division
Paul Condra - BMO Capital Markets
James Samford - Citigroup Inc, Research Division
Corey Greendale - First Analysis Securities Corporation, Research Division
Gary E. Bisbee - Barclays Capital, Research Division
Brandon Burke Dobell - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division
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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the First Quarter 2012 DeVry Results Conference Call. My name is Regina, and I will be your operator for today. [Operator Instructions] Today's event is being recorded for replay purposes. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Ms. Joan Bates, Senior Director of Investor and Media Relations. Ms. Bates, please go ahead.
Thank you, Regina. With me today from DeVry management are Daniel Hamburger, President and Chief Executive Officer; Rick Gunst, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Pat Unzicker, Vice President and Controller.
I'll now review the Safe Harbor provisions of this results call. This call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Federal Securities Laws. Such forward-looking statements reflect, among other things, management's current expectations, plans and strategies, anticipated financial results, all of which are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and factors that may cause the actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Please see our public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for more information about forward-looking statements and related risk factors.
Telephone and webcast replays of today's results call are available until November 15, 2011. To access the replays, please refer to today's release for more information.
With that, I'll turn the call over to Daniel Hamburger.
Daniel M. Hamburger
Thank you, Joan. Thank you, all, very much for joining us today for our fiscal 2012 first quarter results call. I'll start off with an overview of the quarter, and then Rick and Pat will walk us through the results. And then we'll, of course, open it up and try to maximize the time available for your questions.
So let me comment on the factors that are driving our results, our plans are to improve and why we believe these are near-term issues and the long-term growth outlook is strong. Of the 3 near-term headwinds that we talked about on our last call remain true today. First, after several years of exceptional growth, we've seen a reversion to the mean. This trend has presented some near-term downward pressure, and over the long term, we still believe, in what we call, the return to the historical mid to high single-digit range.
Second, still working through some operational adjustments that we put in place related to the new regulations. As we talked about last quarter, these adjustments have included reevaluating our marketing affiliates to make sure they comply with the new regulations, increase training of our employees and the new regulations such as misrepresentation and what that means for our institutions and helping our employees adapt to our new performance management system. Adjustments we've been making have been a distraction to our employees and have impacted our results, but we're working through them as quickly as thoroughly as possible and it won't proceed on being a long-term issue.
The third headwind is the one that we see having the greatest impact in our performance, and that's the economy. The economy is lousy and in particular, unemployment has remained high for an extended period. These conditions are impacting all of higher education not just the private sector. This new data out from the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Those are the people that administer the GMAT exam.
And that said, the applications for full-time MBA programs had an average of 9.9% from a year ago. Nearly 1/3 of these programs reported decreases of more than 10%, so you might say to yourself, "Well, that's odd." Usually in bad times, MBA applications go up. Well it did at first. But now with unemployment persisting for so long, it's turning the other way. Similarly according to the Council of Graduate Schools, enrollment of new students at all graduate schools taken together fell for the first time since 2003.
Even enrollments at community colleges have slowed dramatically over the last year. Now community colleges and some other segments of higher education are somewhat countercyclical. Typically when unemployment goes up, they will go back to school.
It's not the unemployment level, it's the duration of high unemployment that's key now. The sentiment we're seeing from potential students is very risk-averse, very cautious when it comes to spending, making a significant commitment of any kind. So this point really struck home for me when I was recently in Houston doing a focus group with some DeVry University students. And when the students mentioned that his cousin just graduated from high school last June, it shows to put off attending college for a year. He knows he needs to go to college, just putting it off a year. It's not affordability, per se, if you will, loans are available, plans are available. It's more of the psychological effect of the economy on prospective students. Just as people are putting off buying homes even when housing prices are cheap and interest rates are extremely low, some students are deciding to put off enrollment commitments until things begin to improve. So the countercyclical trend has reversed itself. This could imply that once the economy begins to show improvement and the job market rebounds, we'll see students go back to school who'd previously put off that decision.